Nigeria’s U-23 side, Dream Team VI, now walk a tight rope after clawing its way to a slim 2-1 victory over Congo in an African U-23 Championship qualifier played out at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Though the team edged closer to qualifying for the competition with the win, its slim advantage could be upturned by the Congolese side in Brazzaville, in the return leg.
The first half ended goal-less, with the visitors giving a good account of themselves, but it was Junior Ajayi who broke the dead-lock in the second half, sending the 35,000 spectators into celebration frenzy.
The feeling was not dampened when Claude Leroy’s charges pulled one back in the 68th minute.
It was sweet revenge for Nigeria whose senior side lost 3-2 to Claude Le Roy’s Congo last year in a 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier – a result which ultimately denied the Super Eagles a place at the finals and a chance to defend their title.
Nigeria boast a proud Olympics football record, having won gold medals at the Atlanta Games in 1996.
They also finished runners-up at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where current Nigeria under-23 coach, Samson Siasia, also coached the ‘Dream Team’ in China.
The return match is scheduled for early August and the overall winners qualify for an end-of-year tournament in Senegal from which the top three teams out of eight go to Rio.