Siasia rewards team, eyes final
• Injured Dimgba out of tourney, Okechukwu suspended
Coach Samson Siasia surprised his players on Saturday night when he rewarded each of them with $100 for qualifying for the semifinal of the U-23 African Nations Cup, reports africanfootball.com. And because of the gesture, according to the report, the players have vowed they will play to beat hosts, Senegal, on Wednesday to reach the championship final.
Siasia redeemed a pledge to pay his players cash for reaching the last four of the U23 championship, which doubles as a qualifier for the 2016 Rio Olympics, after they held Algeria to a scoreless draw on Saturday in Dakar.
He then fixed his sights on reaching the U23 AFCON final at the expense of home team Senegal by 4.00 pm Nigerian time on Wednesday.
“I would have preferred Senegal in the final, but I have to do at the semis,” said Siasia.
“It will be a great match because they will have the public behind them and we have to play and win.”
He said he hopes to inspire his team to progress to the final after he scored against Senegal in the 1992 AFCON in Dakar.
“At the Africa Cup of Nations in 1992, I scored here (Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium), and this is why most Nigerians remember me, I will be around my players to repeat it on Wednesday,” he said.
The hosts have been in sterling form thus far winning all three of their games in the group stages of the competition.
Nigeria will, however, not be fazed by the frenzied atmosphere expected at the Stade Léopold Sédar Senghor, Dakar.
“I did not plan for us to meet Senegal in the semifinals. It just happened.
“We would have loved to play in the final with Senegal because the atmosphere would have been wonderful.
“That scenario would have meant we are through to the Olympics in Brazil but as it is, we have to play against Senegal in the semifinals.
We are not going to run away. They (Senegal) are a very good side and they are playing in front of their crowd.
“It is going to be a very difficult match but the Senegalese fans will not play on the day. “It will be down to the 11 players on the pitch on the day,” Siasia said.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s biggest attacking threat at the competition, Stanley Dimgba, has been ruled out of the championship by a long-term ankle injury.
The flying Warri Wolves winger has provided three assists in Nigeria’s group games against Mali and Egypt, before he suffered the injury which team officials now say will sideline him for some weeks.
Coach Samson Siasia’s team will already be without skipper Azubuike Okechukwu for Wednesday’s clash with Senegal because he is suspended after he bagged a second booking against Algeria.