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AFCON U-23 Championship: Nigeria Back In Contention After 3-1 Against Zambia
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AFCON U-23 Championship: Nigeria Back In Contention After 3-1 Against Zambia

Felix Egbomuche

Felix Egbomuche

The defending champions of the African U-23 Championship put themselves back in contention for a second title with the win against Zambia.

After losing their opening group game 1-0 to Ivory Coast, the Olympic Eagles had to win against the young Chipolopolo to keep their fate of qualifying from the group in their hands.

While the scoreline could read for convincing win, the game was anything but comfortable for the Dream team VII who had to come from behind to get the job done.

The Zambians caused some worries in the early stages of the game with the duo of Enock Mwepu and Patson Daka combining to good effect to make the Nigerian defence line sweat.

It was no surprise that one of the pair was to give their side the lead after only eleven minutes of action. Patson Daka, who also features for the country’s senior team, netted the opener.

However, that lead did not last for long, as Orji Okwonkwo nicked the equalizer for Nigeria five minutes later.

Former captain of the Golden Eaglets team that won the FIFA World Cup in Chile four years ago, Kelechi Nwakali, then gave Nigeria the lead with a superb free-kick in the 65th minute.

Germany –based forward, Taiwo Awoniyi, who missed the first game and only joined the team on Sunday night, made it three in additional time to relieve pressure on the Nigerians.

In the other game in the group, South Africa defeated Ivory Coast 1-0 to go top of the group after two games.

With the group still open and all the four teams still having a chance of qualifying, the top two from the group will now be determined in the final group games on Friday.

The top two teams at the moment, South Africa and Nigeria, will go head to head, and at the same time, Zambia will be battling it out with Ivory Coast.

A win for Nigeria against South Africa will steer them into the semi-finals, and closer to a ticket to the Men’s Football Tournament of next year’s Olympics in Tokyo. Only the top three placed teams at the tournament will qualify to represent Africa in Tokyo.