Nigeria will be appearing at the Total U23 Africa Cup of Nations for the third time in Egypt, but if their previous campaign is anything to go by then they are certainly one to watch.
The West African nation produced an unforgettable run to win the 2015 edition in Senegal, by starting with a 3-2 win over Mali in their opening group B match.
Now it is the turn of Kelechi Nwakali, Olisa Ndah, Tom Dele-Bashiru, Orji Okwonkwo and Ibrahim Sunusi to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Junior Ajayi, Oghenekaro Etebo, Emmanuel Daniel, Stanley Amuzie and Segun Oduduwa.
Here, Futbalgalore.com assesses Nigeria’s chances of once again making an abiding impact in this year’s tournament in Egypt.
Nigeria are not a nation that will be daunted by a tough group that comprises of South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire and Zambia.
November 9: Nigeria vs Côte d’Ivoire (18:00, Al Salam Stadium, Cairo)
November 12: Zambia vs Nigeria (21:00, Al Salam Stadium, Cairo)
November 15: Nigeria vs South Africa (21:00, Al Salam, Cairo)
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Nigeria passed through their qualifying campaign unbeaten – but not without controversy – to reach Egypt 2019, beginning with a 5-2 aggregate victory over Libya.
Imama Amapakabo’s side were subsequently drawn against Sudan in the final phase. At the first leg, the Olympic Eagles lost 1-0 in Omdurman.
Nigeria went on to win 5-0 in Asaba to seal their passage to Egypt.
Nigeria U23 have garnered a new reputation for being able to win matches the ugly way en route to their third finals appearance.
That was not quite the case in their five friendlies ahead of Egypt 2019, however, as they drew won two and drew two.
Despite the talents in their forward ranks, breaking down opposition sides from open play has proved to be difficult.
Yet at the opposite end of the field, two clean sheets in the last four matches matches – aided by Ndah and Anthony Izuchukwu protecting the back four – provides hope that they can continue grinding out points.
Goalkeepers: Adamu Abubakar (Wikki Tourists, Nigeria); Mohammed Galadima (Nasarawa United, Nigeria); Kingdom Osayi (Giant Brillers, Nigeria)
Defenders: Olisah Ndah (Remo Stars, Nigeria); Samuel Atavti (Esperance FC, Tunisia); Valentine Ozornwafor (UD Almeria, Spain); Sincere Seth (Boluspor FC, Turkey); Josiah Chukwudi (Spartak Tranava, Slovakia); Anthony Izuchukwu (Nest Sotra, Norway); Bitok Stephen (FC Isloch, Belarus)
Midfielders: Sunusi Ibrahim (Nasarawa United, Nigeria); Aliyu Yau Adam (Spartak Jurmala, Latvia); Muyiwa Olabiran (Tambov FC, Russia); Kelechi Nwakali (FC Huesca, Spain); Ndifreke Effiong (Akwa United, Nigeria); Sunday Faleye (Wacker FC, Austria); Tom Dele-Bashiru (Watford FC, England); Azubuike Okechukwu (Basaksehir FC, Turkey)
Forwards: Orji Okwonkwo (Bologna FC, Italy); Taiwo Awoniyi (FSV Mainz 05, Germany); Bright Enobakhare (Wolverhampton Wanderers, England)
STAR PLAYER – Ibrahim Sunusi
Ibrahim Sunusi is the Golden Boy of Nigerian football. His form for the national side has been frightening.
The Nasarawa United forward must utilise his pace, strength and skill in Nigeria’s third finals appearance.
Kelechi Nwakali, Ndifreke Udo and Azubuike Okechukwu also have a part to play in an exciting attacking midfield full of goals, yet it is Sunusi who can have the biggest say in what is a competitive group.
TOTAL U23 AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS RECORD
Best finish: Winners (2015)