Pinnick tasks players to be battle ready
BY JOE APU
HEAD Coach of the Dream Team VI, Samson Siasia has declared that his team cannot afford to be lackadaisical in their approach to the all important encounter today against host Senegal in the semi-final of the African U-23 Af- rica Championship which also serves as the Rio 2016 Olympic Games qualifiers.
A confident Siasia told theff.com that he believes his team have understood their mistakes from their first two games and are ready to go all the way to ensure that they secure one of the three tickets available.
He says his boys improved in their last game against Algeria by not conceding a goal.
“It is not going to be easy playing against the host nation that is high on confidence, having won all their three group phase matches. Extra effort will be needed in all departments; hard work and courage are critical virtues that the U-23 boys must take to heart.
“Our country is on a run of excellent results in international competitions. We are determined that run must continue and that is why the U-23 boys must defeat Senegal to assure us of a place in Rio de Janeiro next year.”
Both teams clashed at the men’s foot- ball event of the 11th All-Africa Games in Brazzaville in September, with Nige- ria scoring a last –minute goal to tie the match 1-1.
The Dream Team will miss team cap- tain Azubuike Okechukwu, who is sus- pended after receiving a second yellow card in the game against Algeria on Saturday. But Siasia says there is no reason to panic.
“We would have loved to have Azubuike because he is the captain and a big motivator, and you have to have a leader on the field. But he’s suspended, so we have to live with that. There is no need crying over spilt milk. In life, you always have to make adjustments in several areas. Azubuike’s absence will give another player the opportunity to prove himself.”
He added: “We are not going back home empty –handed; it’s no retreat, no surrender. We have to get ourselves ready for today’s game; it’s going to be a difficult one. It’s going to be eleven players against eleven, so we have our chances to qualify.”
Today’s clash will take place at the Stade Leopold Sedar Senghor, where Siasia scored Nigeria’s first goal in a 2-1 defeat of host Senegal in the opening match of the 1992 Africa Cup of Nations.
The winners of this tie will qualify for the Rio Olympics and the final of U23 AFCON.
Additionally, the NFF President Amaju Pinnick has charged play- ers of the Nigeria U-23 squad to fire from all cylinders when they clash with hosts Senegal in the first semi final of the 2nd Africa U-23 Cup of Nations in Dakar on today.
The other semi-final encounter will see South Africa taking on Algeria