Nigeria will start immediately planning towards retaining their U23 AFCON trophy and have “great expectations” about sealing qualification to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo head coach of the Olympic Eagles Imama Amapakabo has said.
The Olympic Eagles became the fourth team to qualify for the 2019 U23 AFCON behind hosts Egypt, Zambia and South Africa with a 5-0 trouncing of Sudan at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba on Wednesday.
Trailing 1-0 from last Thursday’s first leg in Omdurman Nigeria took Sudan to the cleaners with Taiwo Awoniyi’s early goal setting the pace, before Ndifreke Effiong’s brace and a goal each from Sunday Faleye and Sunusi Ibrahim put an emphatic sheen to the scoreline.
Replying to a question from Port Harcourt based journalist Sammy Weijinya about the team’s readiness to pick an Olympic spot at the 2019 U23 AFCON, Amapakabo said with qualification “done and dusted” the team wouldn’t wait before the draws for the group stages before commencing preparations and have “great expectations” about sealing an Olympics place.
“This round of qualification is done and dusted; we are looking forward to the group stage in Cairo,” he said. “We don’t know who our opponents are but not until we get to know who they are [before we start preparations]. I think we’re planning and I think the players are beginning to meet together and they are doing very well, so Egypt here we come full of great expectations.”
Amapakabo also suggested that his team had to deal with off the field problems in the 1-0 loss to Sudan in Omdurman and said that the 5-0 score line in the return fixture was a function of being able to spend more time with the squad.
“Sudan was an experience we would all want to forget in terms of a whole lot, and as a coach, I said I don’t like to talk about off the field incidents but then we got 1-0 we came back 5-0 a big score line because we’ve had the opportunity to work together to train together as a unit and as a team.”
The 2019 U23 AFCON is scheduled for 8-22 November in Egypt and the top two teams will qualify to represent Africa at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.