Imama Amapakabo’s U23 Eagles have crashed out of the U23 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt following a dispiriting goalless draw against South Africa at the Al Salam Stadium, Cairo, on Friday.
Amapakabo’s failure means Nigeria will not be at the Olympics next year as the men mirrored the failure of the women’s national team which also failed to qualify.
Olympic Eagles who are defending champions needed a victory against South Africa to make certain their progression to the semifinal but ultimately faltered when it mattered most.
Ivory Coast’s 1-0 win over Zambia in the other game in Group B which was played at the same time ensured the draw with South Africa was not enough to stave off a group stage exit.
The Ivorians top the group with South Africa in second place while Nigeria and Zambia were eliminated.
And just as it happened in 2011, the U23 Eagles once again exit the tournament in the group stage after suffering a loss in their opening game.
The debacle caps a horrid few months for various national sides with the Falcons failing to make the Olympics and the U17 national team also falling in the quarterfinals at the ongoing U17 World Cup in Brazil.
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Amapakabo, in particular, has been responsible for a string of disastrous results with various national teams.
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He oversaw a disaster class at the WAFU Nations Cup then followed it up with failure to qualify the home-based Super Eagles for the 2020 CHAN – both times falling to Togo – before this latest horror show in Egypt.
Reacting to the loss, President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Mr. Amaju Melvin Pinnick, described the failure of the Olympic Eagles as a shock.
“Working together with the Ministry of Sports, we have been able to provide the team with what is required for them to excel. The team’s failure to reach the semi-finals and ultimately qualify for the Olympics is a big shock.
“Three years ago, football won the only medal that Nigeria took from the Olympics in Brazil. Our expectation was that this team would qualify for Tokyo and go there to do the country proud.”