Olympic Eagles coach Imama Amapakabo says his side’s struggles at the U-23 AFCON in Egypt is as a result of the unavailability of some key players who are with the Super Eagles team.
Imama’s side, on Tuesday, bounced back from a goal down to beat Zambia 3-1, after losing their opening Group B match 1-0 to Cote d’Ivoire and brightened their chances of qualifying for the semi-finals of the competition.
Striker Victor Osimhen – scorer of a hat-trick as Nigeria thrashed Libya 4-0 in the early qualification round, defender Chidozie Awaziem and winger Samuel Chukwueze, who are currently with the senior team, all played for the Olympic Eagles during the U-23 AFCON qualifiers, while Wilfred Ndidi, Joe Aribo and Ola Aina are all eligible to play for Amapakabo’s side at this stage.
“We had challenges with most of our players; we wanted most of our players to be here (Egypt), but unfortunately our A team (Super Eagles) is having a game to play, and most of the players that wanted to play are there,” the former Rangers coach said. “And we also have challenges for some of these players to be released.
“So, we had to hurriedly put a team together here. Most of these players are getting to meet themselves for the very first time here, and it is difficult when you are putting a team together in a very short time.
“Most of these other teams that we are playing against have had their team built over the years. We are building a team in the competition, and it is always very, very tough for a team to play like that.
“Kudos to the boys, they came strong and I applaud their bravery.”
Nigeria will next face South Africa on Friday, with a draw or win good enough to see the team reach the last four of the competition and inch closer to the 2020 Olympics in Japan.