Nigeria’s Olympic Eagles were yesterday drawn in Group B along with perennial rivals Cote d’Ivoire, Zambia and South Africa for the group stage of the 3rd U23 Africa Cup of Nations taking place in Egypt next month.
All Group B matches will hold at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo – one of the venues for last summer’s 32nd Africa Cup of Nations finals.
Host nation Egypt will be up against Ghana, Cameroon and Mali in a hard-as-nails Group A with matches at the Cairo International Stadium.
A simple but elegant ceremony, with the Montaza Palace at the foreground and the Mediterranean Sea at the background, and rocked by occasional interventions of firecrackers over the sea, was compered by former Egyptian international Ahmed Hosny (now a movie star) and model Lama Gebreil.
Cup holders Nigeria will play their first game against Cote d’Ivoire, before further matches against Zambia and South Africa in the group stage.
Only the top three teams at the tournament will qualify to represent Africa at the men’s football tournament of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Coach of South Africa, David Notone, said “The truth is that whatever group you fall into would always be tough.
We have eight very strong teams here and any team could have fallen anywhere, except Egypt and Nigeria that headed the groups.
“I call Group B a pool of derbies, with two West African teams and two Southern African teams. Group A is the pool of death, no doubt about it. It is going to be fight-to-finish in both groups.”