A handful of foreign-based players that had been expected to feature for Nigeria’s under-23 national team, Olympic Eagles in this week’s African championship qualifier away to Sudan will not play the match after all, as the legion that featured in the last match against Libya, Victor Osimhen, David Chidozie Okereke, Francis Odinaka Uzoho, Chidozie Awaziem, Kingsley Michael and Dennis Emmanuel Bonaventure did not turn up at the squad’s camp in Abuja.
However, despite the absences of all the others and Osimhen, who blasted a hat-trick in the 4-0 spanking of Libya last time out at Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba, Olympic Eagles’ coach, Imama Amapakabo had his Turkey-based captain, Azubuike Okechukwu available, alongside the duo of Belgium-based forward, Stephen Odey and Taiwo Awoniyi from SV Mainz of Germany, as well 15 home-based players for the trip to Sudan on Tuesday afternoon.
They will now aim to settle down fast in Omdurman, ahead of Thursday’s African U23 Cup of Nations first leg final round qualifier against Sudan, where they hope to get a decent result before heading home for the reverse fixture in Asaba next Tuesday.
It will not be all about the foreign-based players only, though, as joint-top scorer in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), Sunusi Ibrahim has been tasked with the role of leading the line for the Nigeria U23 team when they take on the Sudanese.
Sunusi, who was drafted from the under-17 squad, Golden Eaglets to the U23 Eagles, thrilled for Nasarawa United of Lafia, and ended with the same number of 10 goals as Akwa United of Uyo’s Mfon Udoh, but he edged it on account of having one caution less.
Since teaming up with the Olympic Eagles, he has impressed the coaches hence his inclusion in the 15-man list, in place of Osimhen, who scored a hat-trick in the return leg against Libya to help turn around a 2-0 defeat suffered in the first leg and Nigeria progressed 4-2 on aggregate.
Amapakabo’s full squad that flew out of Abuja on Tuesday has Abubakar Adamu, Agbor Ekoi, Nda Olisa, Stephen Manyo, John Lazarus, Ebube Duru, Collins Ogbodo, Azubuike Okechukwu, Fatai Gbadamosi, Sunday Adetunji, Blessing Muyiwa, Ndifreke Effiong, Taiwo Awoniyi, Onyeka Ogochukwu, Sunusi Ibrahim, Sunday Faleye, Stephen Odey and Etboy Akpan.