Under-23 national team, Olympic Eagles coach, Imama Amapakabo says he is excited with his side’s astonishing 5-0 whipping of Sudan in the second leg of their African championship qualifier on Tuesday at Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba, but says he has now quickly turned his attention on preparing for the continental showpiece this November in Egypt.
Tuesday victory in the Delta State capital meant Imama’s lads overturned a 1-0 loss from the first leg last Thursday in Omdurman to qualify 5-1 on aggregate for the African U-23 Cup of Nations, which the gaffer says is like only a month away, and he has to start preparing for a title defence.
Earlier qualifiers alongside Nigeria are Ghana, Zambia and Cameroon, with three other countries set to join them and the hosts, Egypt for the eight-team competition, which will also serve as the qualifying tournament for next year’s Olympic Games.
Only the finalists from the third U23 AFON, which will run from November 8 to 22, will represent Africa at the 2020 Games, and Imama stressed that not only does he want the Olympic Eagles to [pick one of those two slots, he also wants to see them retain the continental trophy that was last won by Nigeria at the 2015 edition in Senegal.
Samson Yebowei Saisia was in charge of the squad that went on to win bronze at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil, and Imama says he already has a target of retaining the continental trophy and ensuring his side do better at the 2020 Olympiad in Tokyo, Japan.
Imama enthused: “The boys responded well. They played to instructions and put their spirit into the game. Now we are all happy. We will now start thinking of the main championship.
“Egypt is just about a month away, and we cannot afford to waste any time. We don’t know our opponents yet, but we will be ready for any team we get from the draw.
”There is a big qualification in front of us so we await the qualification. Let’s get to Egypt and let’ see how God is going to bless us.
”As a coach like I say all the time if you want to be the best you should be ready to meet with the best so whichever draw that we have, we have to qualify for the Olympics. We will continue the work from there.”