Congo Aim To Shock Nigeria Again
Congo coach Claude LeRoy wants to inflict further misery on Nigeria this weekend when he takes his side to Port Harcourt for a 2016 Olympic Games football qualifier.
The Red Devils stunned the Super Eagles 3-2 last year in a 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier – it was the first home Nations Cup qualifying loss suffered by Nigeria and ultimately denied them a place at the finals and a chance to defend their title.
Now, the consistently successful 67-year-old Frenchman hopes to repeat at under-23 level what he achieved at senior level and edge Congo closer to Rio de Janeiro and a first Olympics football appearance.
“We are in an identical position to last year with no one beyond Congo giving us a chance,” LeRoy said during a training camp in Atlantic city Pointe-Noire ahead of the third-round first-leg tie.
“But my team have a huge chance of not only eliminating Nigeria, but qualifying for the Rio Olympics.
“There is no reason why we should fear Nigeria. Congolese football has made tremendous progress recently and we must maintain that improvement.”
LeRoy can call on four of his senior squad for the third-round, first-leg clash – goalkeepers Christoffer Mafoumbi and Pavelh Ndzila, defender Sagesse Babele and striker Sylvere Ganvoula.
While Nigeria received first and second-round byes, Congo have already claimed a notable scalp in former Olympics football bronze medallists Ghana.
Both nations won 1-0 at home and Congo squeezed through after a penalty shootout at Stade Municipal in Pointe-Noire.
Nigeria boast a proud Olympics football record, winning the 1996 Atlanta gold medals after a thrilling final against Argentina and finishing runners-up to the same country at the 2008 Beijing Games.
Former star national team striker Samson Siasia coached the ‘Dream Team’ in China and will be in charge Sunday at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in south-east Nigeria.
He has called up Tottenham midfielder Musa Yahaya – nicknamed ‘Iniesta’ as his style resembles that of the Barcelona star – and Sweden-based goal-poacher Taiwo Owiniyi.
The striker got Nigeria out of jail this year in a 2015 All-Africa Games qualifier against Zambia, scoring both goals in a second-leg away triumph after the Dream Team were held at home.
South Africa, whose previous Olympics appearance was in Sydney 15 years ago, are upbeat ahead of a Harare showdown with neighbours Zimbabwe at Rufaro Stadium Sunday.
“This team has what it takes to go all the way to Rio,” believes coach Owen da Gama. “The training camp is buzzing with excitement.”
Uganda coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic says he is looking forward to proving Egyptian TV analysts wrong after they labelled his team a “punching bag”.
The countries face off in Mediterranean city Alexandria Saturday and the stars on show should include two consistent goal scorers, Egyptian Mahmoud ‘Kahraba’ Abdel Moneim and Ugandan Farouk Miya.
Elsewhere, Gabon host Mali and Ivory Coast host Zambia on Saturday, while on Sunday Morocco host Tunisia and Algeria host Sierra Leone.