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U23 AFCON: Siasia Dreads Senegal Clash

Scaling Senegal hurdle will be difficult, admits Nigeria

Head coach of the Nigeria’s Dream Team, Samson Siasia, anticipated a daunting task when his squad play hosts Senegal on Wednesday in one of the semi-final matches at the ongoing African Under- 23 Nations Cup, though he hopes to scale the hurdle.

Nigeria’s reward for finishing in second place after playing goalless with Algeria in Group B’s last game is a semi-final date with Senegal, who have been in sterling form winning all three of their games in Group A of the competition.

“I did not plan for us to meet Senegal in the semifinals. It just happened,” said Siasia. “We would have loved to play in the final with Senegal because the atmosphere would have been wonderful.

“That scenario would have meant we are through to the Olympics in Brazil but as it is, we have to play against Senegal in the semifinals.”

The 2005 African Youth Championship winning coach is however confident that the frenzied atmosphere expected at the Stade Léopold Sédar Senghor in Dakar would not faze the Dream Team.

“We are not going to run away. They (Senegal) are a very good side and they are playing in front of their crowd.

“It is going to be a very difficult match but the Senegalese fans will not play on the day. It will be down to the 11 players on the pitch on the day.

“So I just want to enjoy this moment (that we have qualified for the semifinals) and make corrections for the next game,” said Siasia.

He said he hopes to inspire his team to progress to the final after he scored against Senegal in the 1992 AFCON in Dakar.

“At the Africa Cup of Nations in 1992, I scored here (Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium), and this is why most Nigerians remember me, I will be around my players to repeat it on Wednesday,” he said.

Meanwhile Siasia has given out the sum of $100 to each of his players for qualifying for the semi-final of the U23 AFCON to redeemed a pledge to pay his players cash for reaching the last four of the competition, which doubles as a qualifier for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

He said he was satisfied his team kept a clean sheet against Algheria after capitulating in the second half of their two previous group games against Mali and Egypt.

“I congratulate my team for not conceding and qualifying for the semifinals,” he said.

“The most important thing was to qualify and we have achieved it. We wish we could garner the three points but I’m happy with qualifying and getting closer to Rio de Janeiro.”

–  Oladipo Okubanjo

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