Coach Samson Siasia on Saturday led Nigeria to clinch the 2015 U-23 African Cup of Nations, AFCON, after defeating Algeria 2-1 in the final played at Stade Leopold Sedar Senghor in Dakar, Senegal.
Oghenekaro Etebo set the Nigerian side, popularly known as ‘Dream Team’ on the way in Saturday’s final, with a goal from the penalty spot in the 14th minute.
The forward himself had been double–teamed by two Algerian defenders but picked himself up to send the goalkeeper the wrong way.
Algeria drew level in a most bizarre manner, when Nigerian defender Segun Oduduwa headed past his own goalkeeper and into the net from a delicate pull–out by an Algerian forward in the 31st minute.
Etebo, who rained shots at the Algerian goal from every angle, was strong and purposeful all through, and five minutes to interval, picked up the ball in the centre circle and ran past a horde of Algerian defenders before firing low into the net past the Algerian goalkeeper.
In the 69th minute, the brilliant Nigeria goalkeeper Emmanuel Daniel saved his second penalty in as many matches.
After foiling Sory Keita in the first half of Wednesday’s semi final, Daniel again rose to the occasion to stop Algeria’s dangerman Ferhat after Oduduwa, who had a game to forget, had fouled an Algerian striker in the box.
The Dream Team weathered the expected final 20–minute onslaughts of the North Africans very well, even creating chances of their own, and were fully worth the African title at the end.
NFF 1st Vice President, Barr. Seyi Akinwunmi, who was also leader of delegation when the U-20 boys won the Africa U-20 Cup in Senegal earlier in the year, was among the dignitaries at the Stade Leopold Sedar Senghor in Dakar on Saturday night.
The NFF as a Federation has special praise for Coach Siasia. “He was strong mentally and never lost focus, even in the face of odds. He is deserving of every encomium”.
South Africa picked the third African ticket, condemning host Senegal to misfortune with 3-1 penalty shoot–out defeat in the third place match.