Amapakabo Picks Nwakali, Awoniyi, 19 Others for Olympic Qualifiers

Imama Amapakabo

Femi Solaja

Ahead of the U-23 AFCON Tournament in Egypt, Head Coach of the Olympic Eagles, Imama Amapakabo, has named team Captain, Azubuike Okechukwu, defenders Anthony Izuchukwu, Sincere Seth and Olisah Ndah, in his final list of 21 players to represent Nigeria.

Others on the list include; midfielders Kelechi Nwakali, Muyiwa Olabiran and Ndifreke Effiong, and forwards Taiwo Awoniyi and Orji Okwonkwo

Nigeria won the tournament in Senegal four years ago and will go into the final qualifying tournament for next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo as defending champion.

In a bid to fortify the team with the best players within the age limit, the coach increased the number of foreign-based players from the initial nine to 14 including Samuel Atavti of Esperance FC, Tunisia who is the only African foreign-based player in the final list.

Amapakabo also picked goalkeeper Adamu Abubakar, defender Josiah Chukwudi, and lively attacking midfielders Ndifreke Effiong, Tom Dele-Bashiru and Sunusi Ibrahim.

The Nigerian team left Abuja last night for the third edition of the championship scheduled to kick off in Cairo on November 8.

Nigeria will battle Côte d’ Ivoire, Zambia and South Africa in that order at the Al Salam Stadium. Super Eagles defeated Carthage Eagles of Tunisia 1-0 to win the bronze medal of the last the AFCON tournament in Egypt.

Hosts Egypt heads Group A that also has Ghana, Cameroon and Mali with matches to hold at the Cairo International Stadium.

Nigeria’s first match of the campaign is against Cote d’Ivoire on Sunday, November 9.

The top three teams at the eight-nation finals will qualify to represent Africa in the Men’s Football Tournament of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

In a related development, Egypt and Al Ahly winger, Ramadan Sobhi, has vowed that himself and his teammates are ready to displace Nigeria and be crowned the new champion of the U23 African Cup of Nations.

In an interview with Al-Ahram, one of the major tabloids in Egypt, the young Pharaoh captain, Sobhi expressed his side’s goals and ambitions.

“I hope that luck will be on our side. The players and the coaching staff are all ready to face the best eight teams in Africa,” he concluded.