Nigeria’s chances will be boosted in Saturday’s U-23 AFCON final against Algeria with the return to action of suspended skipper Azubuike Okechukwu and injured Taiwo Awoniyi.
Okechukwu has served out his one-match suspension after he picked up his second booking against Algeria in a final group game, which ended in a scoreless draw, and officials informed Awoniyi is back training after an ankle injury kept him out of Wednesday’s semi-final against hosts Senegal.
Skipper Okechukwu is expected to reclaim his first-team place as defensive midfielder, but it is left to be seen if Awoniyi will be considered to partner Junior Ajayi in attack ahead of Warri Wolves striker Kufre Ebong, who has started the team’s last two matches even though he has failed to impress.
Liverpool loanee Awoniyi himself has yet to find his bearing in Senegal and has not scored a goal after he netted thrice with the Flying Eagles at the African Youth Championship in March, also in Senegal.
Under-23 coach Samson Siasia says he is happy seeing his side qualify for the final of the 2015 Caf Africa Cup of Nations after a hard fought 1-0 win over hosts Senegal in Wednesday’s semifinal at the Stade Leopold Sedar Senghor in Dakar.
The Les Lionceaux had the better chances in the game and Nigeria had goalkeeper Emmanuel Daniel to thank for staying in the game.
“I’m very happy to win against Senegal again after the Africa Cup of Nations in 1992 and achieving our objective, which was to qualify for the Olympics,”Siasia said.
“I think the ‘gods of football’ were with my team today because Senegal created most of the chances but they failed to score.
“Emmanuel Daniel (Nigeria goalkeeper) kept us in the match as he made some brilliant saves today. On another day, we could’ve been embarrassed.
“We did the best we could because we had lots of injuries heading into this match but I hope that Senegal can qualify to Rio so as to have a strong African representation in Brazil.
“Creating chances and scoring them are different so I’m not concern that we allowed Senegal to have the best chances of the match.”he added.