Another Olympic Games’ hope seems fading for Nigerian football as the country’s football men team succumbed to a 1-0 defeat against Cote d’Ivoire in the opening Group B match of the CAF U23 Nations Cup.
The competition serves as the qualifier for the Tokyo Olympics men’s football event.
Incidentally, it was Cote d’Ivoire that knocked out Nigeria’s women’s team from the Olympic Games’ qualifying series.
The Nigerian side will be under great pressure to get good results from its two remaining group games against Zambia on Tuesday and South Africa on Friday to stand any chance of making it to Tokyo 2020.
Saturday’s loss to Cote d’Ivoire broke an unbeaten six-match run that the Nigerian U23 team had been having since 4-1 defeat of Algeria in Morocco in 2011.
Silas Gnaka scored from the spot for Cote d’Ivoire after 68 minutes what proved to be the game’s lone goal shortly after Nigeria was reduced to ten men from the previous foul on Ilisa Ndah who received his marching orders.
The opening half witnessed almost no clear chances for both sides who entered the game with cautious approach as it ended in a barren stalemate.
Nigeria returned with more intention and missed a chance to break the deadlock after 64 minutes when Taiwo Iwonyi header rebounded from the crossbar.
But it was Cote d’Ivoire who took the lead. Olisa Ndah fouled Youssouf Dao inside the vital area to receive his marching orders for a second bookable offense. The referee awarded the Ivoirians a penalty and from the spot Silas Gnaka’s shot found the hands of Nigeria’s goalkeeper Adamu Abubakar’s hand but the referee judged it to pass the goal line to score Les Elephants opener.
Nigeria tried hard to fine the equalizer but time passed quickly as the holders suffered their first defeat.