Former Golden Eaglets star, Victor Osimhen, grabbed a hat-trick on Monday as Nigeria ‘s under-23 male national football team defeated their Libyan counterparts 4-0 on Monday in Asaba, to reach the third qualifying round of the 2020 Olympic Games football tournament.
The match, which was played at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, was also the second leg of a qualification round for the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
The Nigerian side had lost 0-2 in the first leg played on Wednesday in Tunisia, Libya’s home ground for now, and have now advanced to the qualifiers’ next round 4-2 aggregate.
The second leg game, which was watched by a handful of spectators, saw the Libyan team putting up a defensive play right from the first blast of the whistle.
However, the Nigerian team took total control of the midfield, as they mounted sustained attacks on the Libyan defence.
The Nigerian team’s efforts finally paid off in the 33rd minute of play, when Osimhen grabbed his first goal of the game from a rebound after a free-kick hit the upright.
On resumption of the second half, the Nigerian team went on the offensive in their search for more goals, forcing the Libyan defence to commit blunders.
Osimhen, on loan to Charleroi from Bundesliga outfit VfL Wolfsburg, again rose to the occasion, as he slotted in the second goal of the game in the 64th minute after the Libyan goalkeeper, Aymar Altihar, mistakenly parried a cross onto his path.
He later grabbed his hat-trick in the 75th minute following a goalmouth scrabble, after the Libyan defence failed to clear a Nigeria cross inside the penalty box.
Before the ovation which trailed the goal could die down, Nigeria’s Chidozie Okereke grabbed the fourth goal on the dot of 90 minutes for Nigeria.
The Nigerian squad finished the match four million naira ($11,100) richer as senior team captain Ahmed Musa promised a million naira for every goal his compatriots scored.
Nigeria are the most successful African country in Olympics football, winning the 1996 Atlanta tournament and finishing runners-up to Argentina in Beijing 12 years later.
At the post-match media conference, Nigeria’s coach Imama Amapakabo expressed joy and satisfaction with the win.
He said the Nigerian team played according to the game plan and deserved the victory.
“After the first leg in Tunisia which we lost, we learnt a lot because we saw their pattern of play.
“So, we came home and decided to work on how to break down their style of play.
“Today, we played according to our game plan, to get an early goal, and then follow it up with as many goals as possible,” he said.
Also speaking, Nigeria’s team captain, Azubuike Okechukwu, said the victory was well deserved.
“We came down here to win and we have achieved that. I must say we played our game, we were not under pressure.
“More so, the fans here today are so marvellous. They gave us so much support and we really appreciate it,” Okechukwu said.
In Abidjan, the Ivory Coast hammered Niger 6-1 to equal the biggest winning margin set by Kenya in a 2020 qualifier in Africa, AFP reported.
Leading 2-1 from the first leg, the Ivorians scored three goals in each half at home with Italy-based Willy Braciano bagging a brace.
Ivory Coast are likely to face tougher opposition in the third round when they come up against Guinea, who surprisingly eliminated Senegal.
A further seven qualifiers are scheduled for Tuesday with Ghana and South Africa poised to advance after building impressive first leg leads.
Olympics qualifiers are restricted to under-23 footballers with three over-age stars permitted at the finals.