AFCON U-23: Nigeria, Senegal in semi-final cracker today
Senegal have quickly established themselves outstanding favorites to win the 2015 African U23 Championship having gone emerged stunningly from a dangerous group, yet in semi-final opponents Nigeria they face a treacherous task.
Not only will the hosts have to battle their cross-country foes, they also have the elements in their favour in Dakar's Stade Léopold Sédar Senghor. The game comes up in the evening on Wednesday. A win for either team will translate to a place in the final plus an Olympics ticket with a game to spare.
Coach Samson Siasia has made a late change to his squad, with Eyo Ebong replacing Taiwo Awoniyi in the attack with Godspower Tower coming on for Augustine Dimgba.
Siasia knows how tough qualifying will be for his team, who come into their meeting with Serigne Saliou Dia's lads on the back of two straight draws.
“I would have preferred to play Senegal in the final but I have to do at the semis. It will be a great match because they will have the public behind them and we have to play and win.
“At the Africa Cup of Nations in 1992, I scored here [Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium], and this is why most Senegalese remember me. I will be around my players to repeat it [on Wednesday].”
In Senegal, the Dream Team VI face dangerous opponents. Wins over Tunisia and South Africa proved the qualities of Saliou Dia's side, who also showed a steely face when they dismissed Zambi in their last Group A game.
That match against the Junior Chipolopolo also took place at the Stade Léopold Sédar Senghor, so the Nigerians have some idea of what to expect from the hosts, though the first semi-final game, conditions will likely be tougher for a team that has so far played an intense pressing game.
Coach Siasia has only lost just once to an African team in his international coaching career. It was a 3-1 defeat to Burkina Faso at the 2015 All African Games in Congo Brazzaville.
Nigeria defeated hosts Senegal 2-1 at the 1992 Africa Cup of Nations with Siasia netting the curtain raiser at the Stade Sedar Senghor formerly known as Stade de l’Amitié, Dakar.
If this history counts again and should Nigeria U23 draw inspiration from this plus keep their defence tight, they can tame the Cubs of Teranga to reach their first final in the competition
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