Dream Team VI walk tightrope, seek semi-final ticket against Algeria

Samson Siasia

Samson Siasia

Taiwo Adelu

Samson Siasia
Samson Siasia

Nigeria’s U-23 Eagles, otherwise known as Dream Team VI, will have their hands full when they confront Algeria in Saturday’s last group game of the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations at the Stade Léopold Sédar Senghor, Dakar, at 4pm Nigerian time.

Though the team have the potency of scoring goals, their defensive weakness has been a source of worry to football pundits who fear that if care is not taken Nigeria may lose the bid to qualify for the football event of Rio 2016 Olympic Games after the country missed out in the 2012 Games in London.

In their first match at the Senegal 2015 Nations Cup, the Samson Siasia-led team were leading the Malian team by 3-0 in the first half, but went to sleep for their opponents to score two quick goals in the second half. It was a narrow 3-2 win for Nigeria in that match.

The Dream Team VI again took a first half 2-0 lead in their second group game against the Young Pharaohs. To the surprise of football loving Nigerians, the U-23 Eagles allowed the Egyptians to level up and equalised the two goals in the second half, ending the game 2-2.

“I observed that they play well in the first half but collapse in the second half,” confessed President of Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, Amaju Pinnick.

“If we are to be in next year’s Olympics, the attitude to our matches must change. Football is about what we can do in the duration of 90 minutes, so I want the team to wake from their slumber,” Siasia warned his boys.

Both Nigeria and Algeria are on four points each after two matches, with Egypt on two points still with a chance if they win their final game against Mali, who have already been eliminated from the championship.

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Victory over the North Africans on Saturday will guarantee Nigeria passage to the last four, while a draw could also be enough, but that would depend on the result between Egypt and Mali.

Former Nigerian international, Henry Nwosu wants the Dream Team to correct their defensive blunders against Algeria.

He advised Coach Siasia to try using two defensive midfielders to check the onslaught of the Algerian boys in the crucial match.

James Peters, one time Coach of the Super Falcons, said Nigeria must not be complacent against Algeria, adding that Siasia should not be blamed for woes of the team rather the authorities should get a psychologist to work on the boys.

Meanwhile, Algeria have declared a total war on Nigeria in the last group match with the determination of getting the semi final ticket ahead of the Dream Team.

“This game is like a final before the final,” declared Abdelhafid Tasfaout, Algeria U-23 assistant coach.

“We have the confidence and the quality to get a result and finish top of our group and we hope to make the most of our chances while making sure we do not let in goals against Nigeria.”

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