Current champion, Nigeria have been eliminated out of the ongoing U23 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt following a 0-0 draw with South Africa on Friday night.
The result meant Nigeria’s Olympic Eagles finished third in Group B and dropped out of contention for a place in the Men’s Football Tournament of next year’s Olympics in Tokyo.
The result in Al-Salam Stadium in Cairo also meant they sustained an unpleasant streak of Nigeria appearing in the Men’s Football Tournament every other Olympics since the year 2000.
Champions in 1996 in Atlanta, USA, where they won Africa’s first-ever football gold medal of the Olympics, the Nigeria U23 participated in the tournament in Australia in 2000; missed the event in Greece in 2004; took part at the event in China in 2008 and won the silver medal; missed the tournament in the United Kingdom in 2012; participated in the event in Brazil in 2016 and won the bronze medal and now, the current team will miss Tokyo 2020.
On a day they needed just one goal to topple the South Africans and win a place in the last four – irrespective of the result in the other match between Cote d’Ivoire and Zambia – the Olympic Eagles failed to find the net.
Speaking after the match, the President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Mr Amaju Pinnick, said the failure of the Olympic Eagles was a shock.
In his words;
“Working together with the Ministry of Sports, we have been able to provide the team with what is required for them to excel.
The team’s failure to reach the semifinals and ultimately qualify for the Olympics is a big shock.
Our expectation was that this team would qualify for Tokyo and go there to do the country proud.”