Nigeria’s national U23 team will face their Libyan counterparts in a crucial and must win U23 AFCON second round, second leg qualification game at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba on Monday.
Nigeria, the only African nation to have won all colour of medals in men’s football event of the Olympics were beaten 2-0 by the Libyans in the first leg decided in Ben Guerdane, Tunisia last Wednesday. They must convert their territorial dominance in the first leg to goals in the second leg should they hope to progress.
The team have been reinforced with the addition of four players from the Super Eagles squad preparing to face Egypt in an international friendly on Tuesday. Two of the four; defender Chidozie Awaziem and first choice goalkeeper Francis Uzoho were at last summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia.
The two other players are Flying Eagles centre back Valentine Ozornwafor and Belgium based striker Victor Osimhen. All four players are expected to start in Monday’s game scheduled to kick off at 4pm Nigerian time.
Nigeria’s U23s are captained by Awaziem’s club mate in Turkey, Okechukwu Azubuike and coached by former Rangers coach Imama Amapakabo. The team arrived back in Nigeria on Friday morning and have trained a little more than they did before the first leg game.
“To me, it’s a very big opportunity and I’m thankful that I’ve been saddled with the responsibility,” said Imama
“Prior to the first game we never had enough sessions to workout but I think between Friday and Saturday we’ve been able to put together two sessions and it’s been wonderful”.
“I’m appreciative of the response that the players have been able to give to us and it’s wonderful,” he added.
Amapakabo also defended the bringing back of Uzoho to the team.
“We’ve had goalkeeping problems. We’ve had goalkeeping challenges for quite some time, I even had to get a goalkeeper on the eve of our departure to go (for the first leg) so it’s a challenge.
“And then, he (Uzoho) is within the age bracket, he’s our first choice goalkeeper and from the onset if we wanted to have him, we would but now Uzoho is part of the team and we are working,” said Imama.
Nigeria have it all to do against the North Africans and must aspire to score at least three unreplied goals to down the Libyans.
Nigeria’s probable lineup vs Libya:
Uzoho; Akpan, Awaziem, Ozornwafor, Duru; Chukwueze, Azubuike, Nwakali, Okwonkwo; Awoniyi, Osimhen.
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