Olympic Eagles coach Imama Amapakabo has said that the second game results in Group B of the ongoing U-23 Africa Cup of Nations have thrown the group open with all the four teams still in contention for semi-final tickets.
The Nigerian team defeated Zambia 3-1 in one of the games, while South Africa shocked Cote d’Ivoire 1-0 to lead the group with four points after two games, Nigeria is second with three points but ahead of third-placed Cote D’Ivoire on better goal difference, while Zambia occupies the rear with a point.
Nigeria will square up against South Africa while Zambia takes on Cote D’Ivoire at the same time tomorrow. Nigeria must beat the South Africans to be sure of qualification and avoid any mathematical headache.
Talking ahead of the last group games, Amapakabo has told his players that the four teams in the group still have the opportunity to make it to the semi-final stage of the competition.
“Talking about going forward, I told my players this is a competition all four teams in this group can qualify. We have South Africa ahead of us and the Zambians have Cote d’Ivoire in front of them and both games are going to be played on Friday at the same time.”
The coach told NationSport that he that knew that the game against the Zambians was going to be open after his team lost a difficult opening game to the Ivorians.
“The game against Zambia was open. I said I knew that first games are always very tough. The second game was open because both team needed points to stay in contention. I think they (the Zambians) opened up to play, they scored us the first goal through a counter and we responded well”
“We had a good plan for the game for the game and we knew that only a win will keep us in this competition. Technically, my defender made a mistake very early in the game through a goal scored on the counter despite working hard in training to curb such moves.
“The Zambian coach talked about studying our style but we made contingency plan and we are glad that our tactical approach worked completely.” Amapakabo added.
He also commended the Zambian for putting up a good fight against the Eagles, saying it was exciting to see both teams go for each other’s jugulars.
“I also want to say congratulations to the Zambian coach and his team. We knew that this game was going to be an exciting game. We knew that it was going to be an end to end stuff. The Zambian team has been together for quite some time. We knew their strength in attack and they were great on the counter. I say congratulations to them,” the coach added.