Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr believes Nigeria’s campaign at the CAF U23 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) later this year in Egypt ‘would not be easy,’ but remains optimistic that the Olympic Eagles will qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as one of the top three teams at the tournament.
Defending champions Nigeria advanced to the 3rd edition of the U23 AFCON after a 5-1 aggregate win over Sudan, and on 3 October, are expected to be drawn against three of Ghana, Cameroon, Zambia, South Africa, Cote D’Ivoire, Mali and hosts, Egypt, in the group stage of the competition, which also serves as qualifiers for the Olympics.
Despite a relative easy passage to the tournament, Rohr has predicted a tough outing for Imama Amapakabo’s Olympic Eagles.
“It is very important for our U-23 to be qualified,” the Franco-German tactician said. “Imama (Amapakabo) did a good job. They lost 1-0 away (to Sudan) and they won 5-0 (at home). So….. (it is an) easy qualification.
“But now the most difficult would be to finish in the first three from eight, because the tournament in Egypt in November will not be easy.
“There will be two groups of four (teams). We have to be in the top two first, and then, you have to be in the first three to be qualified. I hope that we can do that.”
After failing to qualify for the 2012 Olympics, Nigeria emerged champions of the 2015 U-23 AFCON in Senegal, defeating Algeria 2-1 in the final, and went on to claim a bronze medal at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The U-23 AFCON will be held from 8th to 22nd November in Egypt, with the top three teams qualifying for the male football event of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.