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2015 CAF U-23 AFCON: NIGERIA, 7 OTHERS BATTLE FOR OLYMPIC TICKETS

The 2nd edition of the CAF U-23 Africa Cup of Nations Championship starts this weekend in Senegal. The Championship serves as the qualifiers in Africa to the football event of the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro.

Eight teams will take part in the CAF U-23 Africa Cup of Nations from November 28 to December 12, 2015 with the winners, runners-up and third-placed teams assured of direct qualification while the fourth-placed side will be involved in a play-off to determine their participation at the Games. 

Completesportsnigeria.com's IZUCHUKWU OKOSI presents a preview of the U-23 AFCON and the teams hoping to be on the flight to Brazil next year. 

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The tournament was initially scheduled to take place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo between 5–19 December 2015.

However CAF changed the hosts and requested Senegal to host the tournament instead, and the tournament dates were also changed later.

Egypt were the third-placed team while fourth-placed Senegal qualified for the 2012 Olympics via the Play-Offs.

Three teams; Mali, Tunisia and Zambia will be making their debuts in Senegal. 

Nigeria's U-23 Eagles, South Africa and Algeria exited the tournament in the group stages when this format of qualification to the Olympics started and held in Morocco in 2011. 

The second edition which kicks off this weekend will hold in two Senegalese cities of Dakar (capital) and M'Bour.

The 60,000 capacity Stade Leopold Sedar Senghor in Dakar and the smaller Stade Caroline Faye in M'Bour which sits 5,000 fans will be the venues. 

A total of 23 match officials (10 referees and 13 assistants) have been selected for the 2015 U-23 AFCON. 
 

1ST EDITION: MOROCO 2011

Egypt was originally scheduled to be hosted by Egypt from November 26 to December 10, 2011. 

However, less than two months prior to the start of the tournament, Egyptian authorities decided against hosting the competition because of security concerns.

Gabon were the winners of the first edition of the tournament in Morocco four years ago.

'The Panthers' subsequently made their first appearance at the 2012 Olympics in London but were eliminated in the group stages. 

Morocco were the runners-up when they hosted the tournament which was the first time the qualifiers for the football event of the Olympics will take a competition format in Africa.  

The north Africans were eliminated in the group stages at the London Olympics, meaning the Junior Atlas Lions' record of having never qualified from the group stages at the Olympics after four appearances continued.

A total of 16 games were played in the first edition of the CAF U-23 AFCON in Morocco, then known as the CAF U-23 Championship, which was the first time CAF would determine Africa's representatives at the Olympics.

The Championship in 2011 produced 35 goals (2.19 per game).  

Two stadiums; Stade de Marrakech and Stade de Tanger hosted the Championship in 2011.   

CAF BEST ELEVEN IN MOROCCO 2011
                    
GOAL: Ahmed El-Shenawy (Egypt) 

DEFENCE: Mahan Marc Goua. (Cote d' Ivoire), Moaz El-Henawy (Egypt), Remy Ebanega (Gabon), Zarkaya Bergdich (Morocco)

 MIDFIELD: Sameehg Doutie (South Africa), Hossam Hassan (Egypt), Raheem Lawal (Nigeria), Abdelazeez Barrada (Morocco)

ATTACK: Younes Mokhtar (Morocco), Abdoulaye Sane (Senegal)

 SUBS: Ousmane Mane, Ahmed Hegazy, Mohamed Salah, Allen Nono, Laglias Xavier, Soufiane Bidaoui,  Adnane Tighadouini,  Danny Uchechi, Mohamed Chalali
 

TOP SCORERS (With 3 goals each)
Abdelazeez Barrada (Morocco)
Raheem Lawal (Nigeria)

 

SENEGAL 2015: TEAM-BY-TEAM INTRO
 

GROUP A 

 SENEGAL
The Senegalese team's major ambition going into the U-23 AFCON is to be among the top three teams by the end of the tournament and avoid the uncertainty in the Play-Offs.
 

Senegal are the hosts and they will have the backing of their fans.

The Cubs of Teranga reached the 2012 Olympics through the play-offs. They were eliminated at the quarter-finals stage of the Olympics proper in London, when Mexico defeated them 4-2.

 SOUTH AFRICA
The Amaglug-glug of South Africa are hoping to grace their second Olympic football tournament after their debut in 2000 when Sydney hosted. They were eliminated at the group stage 15 years ago. 

The South African team consist mostly of players from the domestic front but it is left to be seen if the desire and hunger to be reckoned with as one of Africa's football elites will be enough to achieve the result they hope for. 

TUNISIA
Tunisia are participating at the Africa U-23 Cup of Nations for the first time.  However they are expected to have a good outing due to their strong domestic league that boost of quality players as well as the contributions from their foreign legion.

 ZAMBIA
Zambia will also making be a debut appearance at the U-23 Cup of Nations.  Zambian national teams take part in the Eastern and Central Africa (CECAFA) regional tournaments which act as good dress rehearsal for bigger tournaments, and although they are not favourites to qualify for the Olympics, they will be going to Senegal as a dark horse capable of causing upsets.

The wonderful display of the legendary Kalusha Bwalya at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul will remain indelible in the hearts of Zambian football fans. That will be inspiration to the present generation of Zambian youngsters that dream of gracing the football tournament of the Olympics.  
 

GROUP B


 NIGERIA
The Dream Team XI will play in Group B of the 2015 CAF U-23 Cup of Nations. The team coached by Samson Siasia will play Mali (November 29), Egypt (December 2) and Algeria (December 5).

Nigeria were eliminated in the group stages of the first edition held in Morocco in 2011 with Austin Eguavoen in charge of the Eagles and consequently missed out from the football tournament of the Olympics in London the following year.

Eguavoen had hoped to get majority of his players from the European leagues to grace the Championship but was disappointed by the refusal of clubs to release their players as it was not played on FIFA free days.

In 2015 however, Siasia will make use of four foreign-based players and 17 home-based players. 

The Nigerian U-23 Eagles will be gunning for their seventh appearance at the Olympics when hostilities begin in Senegal. The country's first appearance was in 1968. They were winners in 1996 in Atlanta and runners-up in 2008 in Beijing. 

Raheem Lawal was the star of the Nigerian team in 2011. Daniel Uchechi also had a good outing in Morocco. Samson Siasia will be banking on players like Taiwo Awoniyi, Junior Ajayi and Oghenkaro Etebor to achieve qualification to the Olympics next year.

MALI
Mali will square up against Nigeria on Sunday, November 29. That will be their first game in the tournament history too as it is their first appearance.

It wasn't long that another Malian side lost to Nigeria-this time at the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup final in Chile. 

It was Mali's first U-17 final but Nigeria's fifth triumph at that level.

So come Sunday, the Malian U-23 side will be hoping to salvage some pride against Nigeria and enhance their chances of reaching the semi-finals stage.

 ALGERIA
The Fennec Foxes are taking the U-23 Cup of Nations in Senegal seriously. The country's final squad list was released last week. 

The north Africans were rock bottom of Group A in the first edition of the pre Olympics qualifying tournament in Morocco four years ago.

They were eliminated alongside Nigeria who beat 4-1 when both sides faced each other.

Algeria like other teams are travelling to Senegal to achieve qualification to the 2016 Olympics but Nigeria being a dominant force will be a hard nut to crack. 

Egypt will also not be easy opponents as they naturally would know about the football philosophy of their regional neighbours. 

 EGYPT
The Egyptian Football Association  withdrew their U-23 team from participating at the All Africa Games in DR Congo so opponents wishing to have an insight into how the Pharaohs might look like in Senegal will be disappointed. 

Egypt are eyeing a 12th appearance at the Olympics which they first attended in Antwerp, Belgium in 1920. They were fourth-placed finishers at the Olympics in Amsterdam in 1928 and Tokyo in 1964.
They were eliminated at the quarter-finals stage in London losing 3-0 to Japan. The Pharaohs had not qualified in four previous editions.

Egypt defeated Kenya, Burundi and Uganda in the first, second and third rounds of qualifiers before booking a place in Senegal.  

The Egyptian league is arguably the most competitive and well run on the African continent though internal strife and political problems threaten to continue derailing them.

CAF RULES ON THE U-23 CUP OF NATIONS

The Confederation of African Football released the rules that will guide the tournament in Senegal. As expected, the top two teams of each group advance to the semi-finals.

The teams are ranked according to points (3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw, 0 points for a loss). If tied on points, tiebreakers are applied in the following order:

1. Number of points obtained in games between the teams concerned;

2. Goal difference in games between the teams concerned;

3. Goals scored in games between the teams concerned;

4. If, after applying criteria 1 to 3 to several teams, two teams still have an equal ranking, criteria 1 to 3 are reapplied exclusively to the matches between the two teams in question to determine their final rankings. If this procedure does not lead to a decision, criteria 5 to 7 apply;

5. Goal difference in all games;

6. Goals scored in all games;

7. Drawing of lots.
Gabon were the winners of the first edition of the tournament in Morocco four years ago.

'The Panthers' made their first appearance at the 2012 Olympics in London but were eliminated in the group stages. 

Morocco were the runners-up when they hosted the tournament which was the first time qualification to the football event will take a competition format in Africa.  

The north Africans were eliminated in the group stages at the London Olympics, meaning the Junior Atlas Lions' record of having never qualified from the group stages at the Olympics after four appearances continued.

 

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One Comments

  1. We must qualified ooo

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