Nigeria U23 captain Okechukwu Azubuike has told www.aclsports.com he is “100%” confident of the team’s turnaround after losing their opening game of the 2019 U23 Africa Cup of Nations (U23AFCON) on Saturday.
Azubuike who plays for Turkish Super Lig side Istanbul Başakşehir arrived in Cairo, venue of the competition on Monday morning after helping his club to a 2-1 win over Ankaragücü on Sunday night.
The Nigerians who won the last edition in 2015, – then also captained by Azubuike – began their title defence with a 0-1 loss to Coted’voire at the Al Salam Stadium on Saturday.
“I am 100% confident that we are going to do well in our subsequent games even though we lost the first game,” says Azubuike to www.aclsports.com on arrival at the Cairo International Airport.
“We just have to work harder, ensure that mistakes are reduced to the minimum and take our chances.”
The Under 23 team is the last under age national team before the senior national team. Head coach of Nigeria’s seniors, Gernot Rohr visited the team in Egypt last week and promised that excelling players in the team will have a shot in his side.
Azubuike says that should serve as some motivation to the lads.
“The promise from the Super Eagles head coach is encouraging and will certainly motivate the players to do better seeing that it is a dream for all players to represent the Super Eagles.
“I will also tell the players when I get to camp to work harder and we need to want it (qualification) more than the opponents.
“That’s how we can conquer them,” Azubuike who was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament at the last edition in Senegal summed.
Imama Amapakabo’s wards will face Zambia – who have never won any game in U23AFCON history – in their second group game on Tuesday.
While Nigeria is boosted by the arrival of Azubuike and forward Taiwo Awoniyi, the Zambians are also boosted by the arrival of Europe based trio Fashion Sakala, Enock Mwepu and Patson Daka.