The Nigeria U23 team, Dream Team VII, on Tuesday thrashed Sudan 5-0 in the return leg of the U23 AFCON qualifier played at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, Delta State, to book a place at the third edition of the tournament in Egypt.
The Olympic Eagles went into Tuesday’s encounter after a 1-0 first leg loss in Omdurman, Sudan, last Thursday, and needed a win with two goals margin to progress to the main draw of the U23 AFCON.
It took the team just 9 minutes to open the floodgate of goals. Taiwo Awoniyi headed from close range after the Sudanese goalkeeper failed to handle Ibrahim Sunusi’s fierce shot. Nigeria then doubled their lead in the 27th minute when Ndifreke Effiong produced a stupendous header befitting of a sumptuous cross from John Lazarus.
The Akwa United man soon grabbed his brace shortly before halftime with a simple tap in to give Nigeria an unassailable lead into the break.
Second half began with a flurry when substitute Sunday Faleye scored Nigeria’s fourth with his first touch after replacing Blessing Muyiwa in the 48th minute. The Wacker Innsbruck player assisted the 2019 NPFL joint top goalscorer, Sunusi Ibrahim with the fifth of the game for Nigeria.
Coach Imama Amakpakabo will be excited by the display of former Arsenal midfielder Kelechi Nwakali who dazzled in the middle of the park, alongside captain Azubuike Okechukwu.
Sudan offered nothing going forward and it could have more if not for the heroics of their goalkeeper who made countless outstanding saves.
Nigeria joins host Egypt, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Mali, Ghana and Zambia in the main draw of the U23 AFCON which kicks off in November.
The U23 AFCON will serve as a qualifier to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, with the two finalist to fly Africa’s flag at the quadrennial event.
Nigeria U-23 starting XI
Adamu Abubakar, John Lazarus, Ebube Duru, Anthony Izechukwu, Okechukwu Azubuike, Kelechi Nwakali, Muyiwa Olabiran, Ndifreke Effiong, Taiwo Awoniyi, Sunusi Ibrahim.
Subs: Fatai Gbademosi, Sunday Faleye, Stephen Odey