The Dream Team of Nigeria have been crowned African champions after beating Les Fennecs of Algeria 2-1 in the finals of CAF 2015 U23 Championship in Senegal. Faruk Ahmed writes
A brace from midfielder Etebo Peter Oghenekaro ensured Nigeria became champions courtesy of a 2-1 win over Algeria in the final on Saturday at the Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium, Dakar.
The Warri Wolves player scored twice in the first half despite an own-goal by Oduduwa Segun in between secured the Dream Team the title at the expense of Algeria.
Les Fennecs had the luxury of wasting a penalty late in the second half with Nigeria goalie Emmanuel Daniel stopping Zinedine Ferhat’s lousy kick.
Nigeria coach Samson Siasia handed a surprise start to FIFA U-17 World Cup star, Victor Osimhen in attack and the youngster repaid the trust by earning his side a penalty after 13 minutes after Algeria captain Ryad Keniche fouled him in the box.
Oghenekaro converted from the spot to give the West Africans an early lead which they will hold on till the hour mark. Minutes later, Algeria goalie Abdelkadir Salhi denied Oghenekaro his second goal by palming out the latter’s goal bound shot from close range.
Les Fennecs quest for the equalizer yielded dividends on the hour mark when hard-pressed Oduduwa headed home a cross from the right by Ferhat into his own net. Five minutes before the break, Oghenekaro restored his side’s lead with a cool finish past Salhi, and take his tally to five in the competition.
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Striker Abdelhakim Amokrane came close twice to breaking the deadlock in the opening minutes of the second half heading wide on both occasions.
On 68 minutes, Algeria were rewarded a penalty after Ndifreke Effiong fouled Amokrane in the vital area, but Nigeria goalie Daniel made light work of Ferhat’s shot from the short distance with a calm save.
Nigeria held on to claim victory to cap an impressive outing at the tournament which served as the continental qualifier for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
In the third place match between South Africa and Senegal, goalkeeper Jody February was the hero for his side, pulling three saves to deny the unlucky host the opportunity for a successive appearance at the quadrennial multisport event after the 2012 edition in London. The match which ended in a stalement was decided by penalties, which the South Africans triumphed by 3-1.