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Nigeria Olympic team make 'dream' start

Nigeria thumped Equatorial Guinea 4-1 in Malabo Sunday to complete an impressive start in a quest for more Olympic Games football glory

AFP, Sunday 10 Apr 2011
Nigeria
Nigeria players celebrate their large victory
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The national under-23 team are known as the 'Dream Team' after winning a thrilling 1996 Atlanta Games final against Argentina and finishing second behind the South Americans in Beijing three years ago.

Now the Nigerians have their sights set on London next year and a 9-1 aggregate drubbing of lightweights Equatorial Guinea was easily the most convincing victory of the second round qualifiers this weekend.

Algeria, Gabon, Mali and Morocco also secured places in the April 13 third round draw on a day when form was largely restored after the shock Saturday exits of Sydney gold medalists Cameroon and Barcelona bronze medalists Ghana.

Nigerian officials have ordered coach Augustin Eguavoen to use only local stars for future Olympic qualifiers to encourage domestic footballers and slash travel costs.

That should not unduly harm the chances of the 'Dream Team' judged by the performance of Warri Wolves striker Ekigho Ehiosun, who claimed a hat-trick with Danny Uchechi of English second-tier club Leicester City the other scorer.

Ehiosun, who netted once in the 5-0 first leg triumph two weeks ago, opened the scoring by converting a 30th-minute penalty in the island capital of the tiny oil-rich Central African nation.

Uchechi added a second on the stroke of half-time and Ehiosun completed his hat-trick with a brace inside six minutes midway through the second half before a Kelvin Abaga drive gave Nigerian goalkeeper Dele Ajiboye no chance.

Morocco made the tiring journey from north-west to south-east Africa with a two-goal advantage over Mozambique and after falling behind in the first half, Younes Mokhtar levelled on 69 minutes.

That left the Mozambicans needing to score at least three times in the final quarter of the Maputo match to progress, but all they could manage was one from Manuel Uetimane in stoppage time for a hollow 2-1 victory.

Gabon also travelled south sitting on a two-goal cushion and any fears that they might come unstuck in Swaziland all but vanished a minute into the opening half when Koumba Tandtigora scored what proved to be the only goal of the game.

Mali had a much tougher passage, squeezing through on away goals after twice leading in a 2-2 draw with Guinea, who had been slight favourites after leaving Bamako on level terms following a goalless stalemate.

Cheibane Traore gave the Malians a third-minute lead in Conakry, Aly Soumah levelled from a penalty soon after, Oumar Kone put the visitors ahead again on 82 minutes only for Hady Barry to restore parity almost immediately.

Algeria wasted little time consolidating the three-goal lead over Madagascar they brought to Antananarivo with Sid Ahmed Aouadj grabbing the lone goal of the return encounter just two minutes into the opening half.

Benin, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia and Zambia have also secured third round places and Ivory Coast look likely to join them as they hold a four-goal lead over Liberia.

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