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NFF talks up Dream Team ahead semifinal clash with Senegal

08 December 2015, 20:23Israel Ojoko

Dakar - NFF President Amaju Pinnick has told players of the Nigeria U-23 squad to fire from all cylinders when they clash with hosts Senegal in the first semifinal of the 2nd Africa U-23 Cup of Nations in Dakar on Wednesday.

Head Coach Samson Siasia believes his boys improved in their last game against Algeria by not conceding a goal, but Pinnick wants the players to show no mercy when launching onslaughts and do everything to keep the rearguard tight against the rampaging Senegalese.

Both teams clashed at the men’s football event of the 11th All-Africa Games in Brazzaville in September, with Nigeria scoring a last–minute goal to tie the match 1-1.

“It is not going to be easy playing against the host nation that is high on confidence, having won all their group phase matches. Extra effort will be needed in all departments; hard work and courage are critical virtues that the U-23 boys must take to heart on Wednesday.

“Our country is on a run of excellent results in international competitions. We are determined that run must continue and that is why the U-23 boys must defeat Senegal to assure of a place in Rio de Janeiro next year.”

Also read: Dream Team striker speaks ahead of Senegal clash

Nigeria, 1996 champions and 2008 vice champions, missed the 2012 Olympics as Coach Austin Eguavoen’s Class of 2011 lost out at the inaugural Africa U-23 Cup of Nations in Morocco.

Siasia’s group will miss team captain Azubuike Okechukwu, who is suspended after receiving a second yellow card in the game against Algeria on Saturday. But Siasia says there is no reason to panic.

“We would have loved to have Azubuike because he is the captain and a big motivator, and you have to have a leader on the field. But he’s suspended, so we have to live with that. There is no need crying over spilt milk. In life, you always have to make adjustments in several areas. Azubuike’s absence will give another player the opportunity to prove himself.”

He added: "We are not going back home empty –handed; it's no retreat, no surrender. We have to get ourselves ready for tomorrow's game; it's going to be a difficult one. It’s going to be eleven players against eleven, so we have our chances to qualify."

Reacting on his rearguard that has conceded four goals in three games, Siasia said: “We have learnt our lessons. Two games in which the first half looked good and the last half didn’t. We made our corrections and you can see from how we played in the last game.” Coach Siasia added that for now, he is using FIFA U-17 World Cup sensation Victor Osimhen sparingly, so that the boy doesn't get consumed by the occasion.

Wednesday’s clash will take place at the Stade Leopold Sedar Senghor, where Siasia scored Nigeria’s first goal in a 2-1 defeat of host Senegal in the opening match of the 1992 Africa Cup of Nations. 

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- News24


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