Nigeria could only draw 0-0 with Group B winners Algeria in Dakar and must face hosts Senegal in the semi-finals of the African 2016 Olympic Games qualifying tournament.
With a ticket to Rio at stake next Wednesday, Nigeria would have preferred Group A runners-up South Africa. Instead, tournament surprise side Algeria will face the South Africans in the second part of a Dakar double-header. The semi-finals winners, and the winners of the third-place play-off three days later, qualify for the 2016 Olympics.
Already-eliminated Mali upset 11-time qualifiers Egypt 1-0 in the other Group B game with a Mahmoud Handy own goal on 19 minutes proving decisive. Algeria and Nigeria finished with five points each in what was considered the tougher of the two mini-leagues. Mali collected three points and Egypt two. The superior goal difference of the Algerians — plus two against plus one — enabled them to top Nigeria.
Algeria are seeking only a second appearance at the Games, 35 years after reaching the 1980 quarter-finals in Moscow. Nigeria have been the most successful African country at Olympic football tournaments, winning gold in Atlanta (1996) and silver in Beijing (2008). Senegal (2012) and South Africa (2000) have qualified once each for a competition restricted to U-23 footballers at the qualifying stage with three over-age stars per team permitted at the finals.
Dominant in the first half against Algeria at Stade Leopold Sedar Senghor in the Senegalese capital, Nigeria deserved to be ahead by half-time. Oghenekaro Etebo could have finished the opening 45 minutes with a hat-trick but for the diligence and athleticism of Algerian goalkeeper Abdelkadir Salhi.
In a tournament where Zambian Ronald Kampamba and Senegalese Ibrahima Diedhiou have scored spectacular long-range goals, Etebo tried to become a ‘copycat’. His early attempt from well outside the box was dipping into the corner of the net until a last-gasp Salhi intervention tipped the ball over.
From another corner, Etebo headed millimetres wide of the far post, and later saw his edge-of-box free-kick come off the post into the hands of Salhi. Needing a win to have any hope of making the knockout stage, Egypt fell behind when a Souleymane Coulibaly header off a corner was deflected by Hamdy past goalkeeper Mosaad Awab.
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