These are very trying times for Nigeria football after the country’s team crashed out of the U23 AFCON, which serves as a qualifying tournament for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Just a week after the country exited the U17 World Cup in the second round, it was the turn of the U23s to go down.
Nigeria U23 coach Imama Amapakabo has now failed to qualify the country to two major tournaments within weeks – 2020 CHAN and the Olympics in Japan.
Nigeria held a better South African team to a goalless draw tonight in Cairo.
The defending champions thus finished third in Group B with four points, a point behind second-placed South Africa.
Cote d’Ivoire won the group after they pipped bottom team Zambia 1-0 to finish on six points.
Nigeria goalkeeper Abubakar Adamu was the star of the first half after he saved at least three goal-bound efforts as the game wore on.
Nigeria took the game to their opponents from the first whistle as they camped in the half of the South Africans, who did well to contain all the pressure piled on them.
Taiwo Awoniyi, Orji Okwonkwo and Sunusi Ibrahim all surged up front in search of the opening goal.
But it was South Africa who created the better chances as the minutes ticked away.
Goalkeeper Adamu was first called to action in the 29th minute, when he dived to somehow block a rasping shot from distance.
The Wikki Tourists goalkeeper again was at his best moments later to again deny the South Africans from taking the lead.
And just before halftime, Adamu again pulled off another save to ensure there were no goals in the first 45 minutes of this contest.
In the second half, they were fewer chances created by both teams even after Nigeria brought on three forwards – Sunday Faleye, Bright Enokbakare and Tom Dele Bashiru – in a bold move to get the goals.
South Africa will now face hosts Egypt, who won Group A in the semifinals, while Cote d’Ivoire take on Ghana in an all-West African derby.