Coach of Nigeria’s U23 Men’s side Imama Amapakabo has expressed great hopes of a comeback after his team fell 2-0 on Wednesday to their Libyan counterparts in the first round, first leg qualifier for the 2019 Africa U-23 Cup of Nations.
In a match that was played on the artificial turf of the Ben Guerdane Stadium in the city of Ben Guerdane, in southeast Tunisia, Nigeria (defending African champions) fell behind as early as the sixth minute when Zakaria Alharaish scored for Libya.
Things took a turn from bad to worse in the closing minutes of the first period following the expulsion of Nigeria first-choice goalkeeper Adamu Abubakar who touched the ball outside the area. And the Libyans took advantage of the numerical strength to double their advantage in the second half following a rapid counter-attack.
Reflecting on the result, Amapakabor noted that the outcome was not a true reflection of how his side played. According to him, his players were merely punished for technical faults.
‘I think it is one of those games, we went to the match blindly, with no information on the Libyans. The game was an eye-opener. We now know them technically and tactically.
‘Errors here and there, we lost our keeper after 37 minutes. I think the 2-0 loss does not truly reflect how we played the game,’ Amakpakabo told newsmen.
‘We will surely correct the mistakes on Monday. I have psyched the boys. We may even add one or two boys to the squad. Victory and qualification is very possible on Monday. We will give it our best shot,’ he added.
‘It is my responsibility to pump up the team, everybody is optimistic, a couple of training sessions will be crucial. I know the Libyans better now and we should be able to eliminate them in Asaba.’
The team is scheduled to return to Nigeria on Friday for the second-leg billed for Asaba, Delta State on Monday, March 25. Victory for Dream Team VII in the reverse by three unreplied goals would pave the way to the final round of qualifiers which is due in June.
Africa’s flag-bearers in the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament of Tokyo 2020 will emerge during the 3rd Africa U23 Cup of Nations to hold in Egypt 8th – 22nd November this year.