Nigeria’s hope of qualifying for the men’s football event at next year’s Olympic Games in Paris now hangs in the balance.
At the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja on Wednesday, Nigeria’s U23 boys failed to capitalise on their home advantage as they settled for a 0-0 draw against Guinea in the first leg of their U23 Africa Cup of Nations final qualifying fixture.
Despite the efforts of Success Makanjuola and Timilehin Ogunniyi, who were instrumental to Nigeria’s victory against Tanzania in Ibadan in October 2022, the team could not replicate their performance against a solid Guinea side.
Guinea stifled Nigeria’s midfield play and created several opportunities of their own.
Nigeria’s best chance of the game came in the 28th minute when Ogunniyi struck the crossbar from a free-kick on the right.
However, this proved to be the only noteworthy moment in a lacklustre game that did not live up to its pre-match hype. Makanjuola also had an opportunity in the 45th minute, but his inswinger was saved by Guinea’s goalkeeper, Mory Keita.
In the second half, Guinea came close to scoring when Ousmane Camara hit the upright from a corner kick.
Nigeria also had their fair share of opportunities, with Ifeanyi Ogba missing a couple of chances and Jonathan Alukwu saw a shot saved by Keita in the 64th minute.
As the game approached its conclusion, Nigerian defender Christopher Nwaeze was shown a red card for a second bookable offence, meaning he will miss the return leg which has been scheduled for the Complexe Sportif Prince Heritier Moulay Al Hassan in Rabat on Tuesday.
Overall, it was a disappointing result for Nigeria, who will now have to produce an improved performance in the second leg if they hope to qualify for the U23 Africa Cup of Nations, which in turn serves as the qualifier for the Olympic Games.
Nigeria was not represented in both the men’s and women’s football events at the last Tokyo Olympic Games.
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