Bustling Montreal Impact striker Orji Okwonkwo has said hard work and luck will earn the Olympic Eagles one of the continental’s three tickets to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Football Tournament as the 2019 Total CAF U-23 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) gets underway in Egypt today.
Hosts Egypt will lock horns with Mali at the Cairo International Stadium in the Egyptian capital while Nigeria will take on Cote d’Ivoire tomorrow in an all-West African derby at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo.
“Of course, we are ready and as you know, it is the desire of all the teams to win the tournament,” the 21-year-old Okwonkwo said.
“But there is no two ways about it, we have to do everything possible to ensure that we get the ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.”
Defending champions Nigeria are drawn in Group B and will also face Zambia on November 12 and South Africa on November 15.
“We know this is not going to be an easy competition and the most important thing is that we have to work very hard,” explained Okwonkwo who last month was awarded Montreal Impact’s Most Valuable Player of the Year.
“ Football is a game of luck sometimes but we can be lucky only if we work very hard.”
Ahead of Saturday’s opener against Cote d’Ivoire, the Olympic Eagles only on Tuesday battled to a goalless draw in a friendly match at Ismailia against their Cameroonian counterparts.
“We have to be very confident going into the competition and personally, I’m happy to have been selected by the coaches ,” the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup winner said. “I’ll do my best to ensure we get a ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.”
Okwonkwo was named Montreal Impact’s Most Valuable Player in 2019 after finishing the season with eight goals and two assists in 28 regular season games including 24 starts and 1,784 minutes.