The battle to inch closer to the Rio 2016 tickets in Group B could go to any of the three top sides today as Algeria who eliminated Mali faces Nigeria’s Dream Team and Egypt take on no hopers Mali in the last group game.
With both matches fixed for the same time, the Nigerian side led by Coach Samson Siasia will have to rise above their lack luster performances in the last two games against Mali and Egypt if they intend to go be in the semi finals.
Never-say-die Egypt kept alive their hopes of booking a place at next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro when they came from two goals down to earn an exciting 2-2 draw with Nigeria in their second Group B clash of the U-23 African Cup of Nations on Wednesday.
Two highly controversial penalties from Oghenekaro Etebo put Nigeria 2-0 up inside the first half of an hour in Senegalese city Mbour but Egypt roared back in seven second-half minutes, thanks to goals from Ramadan Sobhi and substitute Karim Mamdouh.
Egypt, who are aiming to finish as one of the top three in the Nations Cup to qualify for the Olympic Games for the second straight time, having reached the quarter finals at the 2012 London Games, have yet to bag any win but they still have a good chance to advance to the Nations Cup semis.
They are third in their group with two points from two draws, two behind leading duo Nigeria and Algeria, who meet each other in the last game while Egypt face already-eliminated Mali.
A win for Egypt coupled with a victory for Algeria or Nigeria will see them through. Should Egypt defeat Mali and Algeria draw with Nigeria, the three will be equal on five points.
Nigeria had the better possession in the opening exchanges, with Egypt unable to move the ball around smoothly despite the presence of some talented attacking midfielders including Sobhi and Karim Walid, who had little service from two sluggish central midfielders
The first soft penalty was awarded on 19 minutes when Cameroonian referee Antoine Essouma adjudged Egypt’s defensive midfielder Rami Rabia to have handled a cross but television replays showed that the ball had struck his knee.
Egypt goalkeeper Mosaad Awad dived the right way but could not block Etebo’s effort into the bottom corner as Nigeria took the lead.
The Pharaohs conceded again from another dubious penalty after half an hour when a Nigerian pass deflected off a defender and looped to the flailing arm of full-back Mohamed Hani. Etebo sent Awad the wrong way to double Nigeria’s lead and leave Egypt with a mountain to climb.
Egypt came on with all guns blazing in the second half, narrowing the gap just two minutes after the restart with a firm header from Ahly playmaker Sobhi after a neat left-wing cross from Mohamed Hamdi.
Five minutes later, substitute Mamdouh, who replaced ineffective lone striker Hussein Ragab, leveled the score with a fortuitous goal when his weak effort from a tight angle hit a defender to wrong-foot the keeper.
Both sides created several goal-scoring opportunities in an end-to-end second period but were let down by some poor finishing.
Acres of space in Nigeria’s defence were exploited by four marauding attacking midfielders, with Egypt going the closest to scoring a decisive goal on 72 minutes when substitute Mostafa Fathi made a darting run towards the area but he missed a sitter when his angled shot went just wide from eight yards out.
Nigeria were also unlucky not to score as both sides shared spoils to throw the group race wide open ahead of the final round of matches.