Nigeria’s Olympic Eagles will host Tanzania in the return leg of the Total Africa U-23 Cup of Nations qualification match at the Lekan Salami Stadium in the ancient city of Ibadan on Saturday.
The Olympic Eagles were held to a 1-1 draw by Tanzania in the first leg at the Benjamin Mpaka stadium in Dar Es Salaam last weekend. The winner on aggregate will proceed to the next round of the Africa U23 Cup of Nations qualifying campaign.
The Africa U23 Cup of Nations to be held in Morocco in November 2023, will determine Africa’s flag bearers at the Men’s Football Tournament of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
While Tanzania has never participated in the Africa U-23 Cup of Nations since its inception in 2011, Nigeria have played in all three previous editions of the tournament and even won the tournament in 2015, defeating Algeria 2-1 to be crowned champions in Senegal.
Nigeria was drawn bye for the first qualification round while their second-round opponents began the journey from the off against South Sudan in September.
In the first qualifying round game, Tanzania were held to a goalless draw against the South Sudanese in the first leg; followed by a 3-3 second leg result in South Sudan to progress on away goals.
In the first leg of the Nigeria-Tanzania clash, captain Success Makanjuola scored from the spot in the 28th minute of the encounter after Remo Stars’ Akanni Qudus was fouled in the Tanzania 18-yard box to give Nigeria a 1-0 halftime lead.
Relentless Tanzania had their two shots on goal strike the post in the space of four minutes.
There was no goal again in the match until the 77th minute of the game when the Tanzanians were awarded a penalty which they scored to cancel out Nigeria’s lead as the game ended one goal apiece.
Ahead of tomorrow’s encounter at the Lekan Salami Stadium, Makanjuola, who plies his trade with CD Diocesano of Spain, assured Nigerians that the Olympic Eagles would win because they are a better team than their East African opponents.
He added that the team would have won the first leg in Dar es Salaam but due to lack of concentration, they could only manage a draw.
However, the former Water FC playmaker said the team would finish the job on Friday and qualify for the next round
“Tanzania can’t stop us because we have a solid team,” he said.
“Loss in concentration made us draw the first leg; we are much better and have stayed longer now.
“We are taking the fight to them on Saturday and they will see a better Nigerian team than the team they met in Dar Es Salam.”
Meanwhile, Coach Salisu Yusuf said that the team could not capitalise on their superior quality against the Serengeti boys last weekend because the team was fatigued and had little time to prepare for the game.
He added that it was important that the team did not lose the first leg and assured that the team would play better tomorrow.
“Though we didn’t have time to prepare, we only have three to four sessions before the game, but I think we were able to assemble a team that at least no matter the situation can withstand the opposition,” the former Kano Pillars boss said in a recent interview with Brila FM. “The most important thing is that we didn’t lose the game, the players worked so hard and I believe they will continue to develop as we go on in the competition.
“I also believe that the next game will be better than the previous game.”
“What happened in that game is as a result of fatigue because of the stress we went through during the travels, we arrived in Dar Es Salaam around 8 am and entered the hotel around 11 am,” he added.