Team Nigeria fights for second position
NIGERIA’S U-23 football team finally settled for the bronze medal yesterday, beating host Congo 5-3 in the penalty shoot out that settled the losers final match at the 2015 African Games in Congo.
The Games will end tomorrow and the Director General of the National Sports Commission (NSC), Al-Hassan Yakmut, has admitted that it would be difficult to beat Egypt to top the medals’ table.
As at yesterday, Team Nigeria had 32 gold, 37 silver and 34 bronze medals, a performance Yakmut said could be improved upon before tomorrow’s closing ceremony.
The Pharaohs (Egypt) look unstoppable on top of the table after hauling medals from swimming and fencing, but Yakmut told The Guardian yesterday that beating South Africa and Algeria to the second position was possible.
The Coach Samson Siasia-led U-23 team, which suffered a 3-1 defeat to Burkina Faso in the semifinal, played goalless with Congo in yesterday’s losers’ final, but laughed last in the penalty shootout to pick a bronze.
Team Nigeria placed third overall at the end of the 10th All Africa Games behind South Africa and Egypt four years ago in Maputo.
At the 2011 edition, Nigeria’s traditional area of strengths like weightlifting and wrestling were left out by the host country, Mozambique, just as Team Nigeria lost ground in table tennis and other combat sports.
Before departing for Congo 2015, Yakmut told The Guardian that Team Nigeria was targeting two things saying: “Our first target is to finish top at the end of the Games, but if by chance we fail to achieve that dream, we have to do everything possible to take the second position. We placed third at the last edition in Maputo and we have to surpass that record in Congo.”
In 2003, Nigeria hosted the 8th edition of the Games in Abuja and at the end of hostilities, the country was able to wrestle the top spot from Egypt for the first time, though, on a controversial circumstance, as the official medals table released later gave Egypt 80 gold medals as against 79 for Nigeria.