Olympic Eagles coach, Imama Amapakabo has downplayed insinuations that he is depending wholly on foreign-based players for Wednesday’s Africa U-23 Cup of Nations qualifier against Libya, as he pointed out that he has as many as 11 home-based players in his squad.
Charting a look ahead of the midweek first leg in Bergandan, Tunisia, the former coach of Rangers International of Enugu and El-Kanemi Warriors of Maiduguri disclosed that as many as six home-based players will start.
Amapakabo was sounding enthusiastic, as his side departed Nigeria through Lagos in the early hours of Monday on a Royal Air Maroc flight, as he noted that the team is primed for victory.
While also recounting how the players learnt the ropes during almost three weeks of camping in Abuja, Amapakabo said he has a mixture of local and foreign-based professionals for the battle against the Libyans.
The home-based players include Flying Eagles shot-stopper Olawale Oremade, who led two other goalkeepers, whilst Lobi Star’s trio of John Lazarus, Ebube Duru, and Ugochukwu Anumudu also made the cut.
Other home-based players in the squad include Akwa United full-back Etiboy Akpan and Enyimba’s Oluwadamilare Olatunji.
The foreign-based players who travlled out with the home lads on Mondfay included Tosin Kehinde and Chidera Ezeh, both from Portugal, as well as Olabiran Muyiwa from Russia.
They will be joined in Tunisia by other Europe-based stars, like Taiwo Awoniyi, Kelechi Nwakali, Azubuike Okechukwu, and new Club Brugge forward Dennis Bonaventure, who were all expected to join the team in directly from their various bases.
The delegation was billed to land at Djerba International Airport, then take a 20 minutes’ drive to the town of Bengerdan.
The first leg of the clash will be played on Wednesday in Bergandan and the return leg is scheduled for Asaba on 25th March with the winner over both legs advancing to the final round of qualifiers in June.
Amapakabo’s full squad has three goalkeepers: Olawale Oremade (Kwara Utd), Adamu Abubakar (Wikki Tourist), and Mohammed Galadima (Nasarawa United); as well as eight defenders: Oluwadamilare Olatunji (Enyimba), Ugochukwu Anumudu (Lobi Stars, Makurdi), Joshua Akpudje (MFMFC), Stephen Egbe (Enyimba), Adebayo Ojo (Brookes FC, UK) John Lazarus (Lobi Stars, Makurdi) Etiboy Akpan (Akwa United) , Ebube Duru (Lobi Stars, Makurdi)
Also listed are six midfielders: Kelechi Nwakali (FC Porto B, Portugal), Azubuike Okechukwu (Caykur Rizespor, Turkey), Orji Okonkwo (Impact Montreal, Canada), Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal CF, Spain), Tosin Kehinde (CD Feirense, Portugal), Fatai Gbadamosi (Shooting Stars FC)
Six forwards complete the list: David Okereke (Spezia FC Italy), Chidera Ezeh (Portimonense FC, Portugal), Taiwo Awoniyi (Royal Mouscron, Belgium), Muyiwa Olabiran (Tanbov FC, Russia), Kingsley Michael (AC Perugia, Italy) (, Dennis Bonaventure (Club Brugge FC, Belgium)