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Go Green! Osimhen Grabs Hat-Trick As Dream Team Crush Libya 4-0 To Revive Olympic Qualification Dreams

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Former Golden Eaglets star, Victor Osimhen, grabbed a hat-trick on Monday as Nigeria ‘s under-23 male national football team defeated their Libyan counterparts 4-0 on Monday in Asaba, to reach the third qualifying round of the 2020 Olympic Games football tournament.

The match, which was played at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, was also the second leg of a qualification round for the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

The Nigerian side had lost 0-2 in the first leg played on Wednesday in Tunisia, Libya’s home ground for now, and have now advanced to the qualifiers’ next round 4-2 aggregate.

The second leg game, which was watched by a handful of spectators, saw the Libyan team putting up a defensive play right from the first blast of the whistle.

However, the Nigerian team took total control of the midfield, as they mounted sustained attacks on the Libyan defence.

The Nigerian team’s efforts finally paid off in the 33rd minute of play, when Osimhen grabbed his first goal of the game from a rebound after a free-kick hit the upright.

On resumption of the second half, the Nigerian team went on the offensive in their search for more goals, forcing the Libyan defence to commit blunders.

Osimhen, on loan to Charleroi from Bundesliga outfit VfL Wolfsburg, again rose to the occasion, as he slotted in the second goal of the game in the 64th minute after the Libyan goalkeeper, Aymar Altihar, mistakenly parried a cross onto his path.

He later grabbed his hat-trick in the 75th minute following a goalmouth scrabble, after the Libyan defence failed to clear a Nigeria cross inside the penalty box.

Before the ovation which trailed the goal could die down, Nigeria’s Chidozie Okereke grabbed the fourth goal on the dot of 90 minutes for Nigeria.

The Nigerian squad finished the match four million naira ($11,100) richer as senior team captain Ahmed Musa promised a million naira for every goal his compatriots scored.

Nigeria are the most successful African country in Olympics football, winning the 1996 Atlanta tournament and finishing runners-up to Argentina in Beijing 12 years later.

At the post-match media conference, Nigeria’s coach Imama Amapakabo expressed joy and satisfaction with the win.

He said the Nigerian team played according to the game plan and deserved the victory.

“After the first leg in Tunisia which we lost, we learnt a lot because we saw their pattern of play.

“So, we came home and decided to work on how to break down their style of play.

“Today, we played according to our game plan, to get an early goal, and then follow it up with as many goals as possible,” he said.

Also speaking, Nigeria’s team captain, Azubuike Okechukwu, said the victory was well deserved.

“We came down here to win and we have achieved that. I must say we played our game, we were not under pressure.

“More so, the fans here today are so marvellous. They gave us so much support and we really appreciate it,” Okechukwu said.

In Abidjan, the Ivory Coast hammered Niger 6-1 to equal the biggest winning margin set by Kenya in a 2020 qualifier in Africa, AFP reported.

Leading 2-1 from the first leg, the Ivorians scored three goals in each half at home with Italy-based Willy Braciano bagging a brace.

Ivory Coast are likely to face tougher opposition in the third round when they come up against Guinea, who surprisingly eliminated Senegal.

A further seven qualifiers are scheduled for Tuesday with Ghana and South Africa poised to advance after building impressive first leg leads.

Olympics qualifiers are restricted to under-23 footballers with three over-age stars permitted at the finals. (NAN)

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Zenith Bank Celebrates D’Tigress On Back-To-Back Afrobasket Championship Victory

Gbemileke Ajayi

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Zenith Bank Plc, the sole sponsor of the Nigerian Female Basketball League has hailed the Nigerian female basketball team, D’Tigress, for emerging champions of the FIBA Women’s Afrobasket 2019 in Dakar, Senegal, defeating the host nation 60-55 points in the final match to retain the coveted trophy.

Speaking on the success of the team at the championship, the Group Managing Director/ Chief Executive, Mr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu commended the team for their hard work, doggedness and team spirit, which has seen them retain the trophy which they won two years ago in Mali. He expressed delight at the heroics of the team, comprised mostly of products of the Zenith Bank Women Basketball League, which the bank has sponsored for 15 years consecutively.

D’Tigress of Nigeria held their nerves in the final quarter of the game played at the magnificent Dakar Arena on Sunday, fighting off a late challenge from their Senegalese counterparts, to emerge African champions for the fourth time.

Evelyn Akhator, one of the products of the Zenith Bank Women Basketball League, scored 14 points and made nine rebounds and her amazing performance throughout the tournament earned her a place in the Tournament Five.

The Nigerian female basketball team kick-started the competition with resounding victories of 75-26 points win over Tunisia and 106-39 points win over Cameroun in the group stages, before recording a 79-46 points win over Congo in the quarterfinals and a 79-58 points win over Mali in the semifinals.

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Rohr Must Scout For Goalkeepers — Peter Rufai

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Ex-International, Peter Rufai has admonished the Super Eagles’ technical crew to work more on the goalkeeping department in the team, to fix some of the loopholes experienced at the just concluded Africa Cup of Nations.

Dodo Mayana as he’s fondly called during his goalkeeping days stated that the goalkeeping trio of Okechukwu Ezenwa, Francis Uzoho, and Daniel Akpayi had an impressive performance with little or more to amend.

The Super Eagles finished third at the AFCON tournament after beating Tunisia 1-0 in the third-place match, thanks to an Odion Ighalo’s solitary goal in the first half.

However, Rufai told Soccernet.ng that the team’ technical trainer, Gernot Rohr should scout for more goalkeepers that would create more competition in the team.

“There is no doubt that the goalkeeper who represented Nigeria at the Africa Cup of Nations showed a very decent performance. At least we saw what goalkeepers such as Okechukwu Ezenwa, Francis Uzoho, and Daniel Akpayi could do for the Super Eagles but then, I still think the Super Eagles technical crew must scout for more goalkeepers that will give them stiff competition.

“This is not to say that they are not good but there is always the need for competition in the team to bring out the best from them.

Rufai earned 65 caps for Nigeria, and represented the nation at two FIFA World Cups, always as a starter: 1994 (Nigeria’s first-ever appearance, where he also acted as captain) and 1998, also helping the Super Eagles win the 1994 African Cup of Nations in Tunisia.

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Nigeria vs Algeria: Rohr Reveals Mistake Super Eagles Made, Singles Out One Player

Gbemileke Ajayi

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Head coach of the Super Eagles, Gernot Rohr, has admitted his players were relaxed at the end of the game when they wanted to force Algeria into extra time in their Africa Cup of Nations semi-final clash.

Nigeria had leveled the game through Odion Ighalo’s penalty after they went behind in the first half.

But with the final kick of the match, Riyad Mahrez struck an unstoppable free-kick past Daniel Akpeyi, to ensure the Desert Foxes will play in the final.

Rohr, speaking to Reuters, hailed Mahrez ass the “genius who made the difference”.

He said: “It was a big fight until the last minute, it was a wonderful match, I think my players wanted it to go to extra time thinking Algeria were more tired.

“We scored an own goal, unlucky, but we have come back every time in this tournament and this time we came back on a penalty. But a wonderful free kick from a football genius made the difference.”

Nigeria will face Tunisia in Wednesday’s third-place encounter at the Al-Salam Stadium in Cairo.

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