Nigeria name weakened U23 squad

Austin Eguavoen
Eguavoen admits Nigeria are in a tough group for the U23 qualifying tournament

Nigeria U23 coach Austin Eguavoen has been forced to name a weakened 21-man squad for the final round of Africa's 2012 Olympic qualifiers in Morocco.

Influential captain Lukman Haruna and winger Ahmed Musa have been denied permission by their European clubs.

Odion Ighalo, Nnamdi Oduamadi, Rabiu Ibrahim, Anthony Ujah and Ekigho Ehiosun will also not be released.

"I've given it my all but the reality is that these players are not going to be with us in Morocco," Eguavoen said.

Eguavoen admits difficulty in bringing most of his European stars for the competition as it falls outside Fifa's international match calendar which means clubs are not obliged to release players.

"I travelled all around Europe to beg clubs to give me Nigerian players but no luck," Eguavoen said.

"Other teams too will not have their best players available so we just have to live with it.

Nigeria were the first African side to win gold at the Olympics in 1996 and Eguavoen remain optimistic in his team's ability to to qualify for the 2012 event.

"We have to respect the players that are here because they all merit the opportunity to represent Nigeria.

"They have all have been together the past six weeks so there is a growing confidence in the team that we can secure a ticket to London.

"Those not here really want to play for the Olympic teams and go to the games but on the other hand clubs say no, so there's nothing they can do."

Nigeria will compete in Group B against Senegal, Morocco and Algeria for the final Olympic men's qualifying tournament for Africa.

Egypt are in Group A with Gabon, South Africa and Ivory Coast.

The top two teams in each group will advance to the semi finals before Africa's representatives for the tournament are known.

The eight-nation event, which is also the African Under-23 Championship, kicks off in Egypt on 26 November.

Cameroon are the other African side to have won gold at the Olympics and they achieved their feat in Sydney in 2000.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Dele Ajiboye (unattached), Olufemi Thomas (Ocean Boys), Theophilus Afelokhai (Kano Pillars)

Defenders: Kingsley Udoh (Unattached), Markson Ojobo (Enyimba), Emmanuel Anyanwu (Enyimba), Edet Ibok (Atletico Beleres, Spain), Terna Suswan (Victoria Setubal, Portugal), Usman Amoda (Unattached)

Midfielders: Raheem Lawal (Atletico Beleres, Spain), Ayo Saka (Ocean Boys), Obiora Nwankwo (Parma, Italy), Nosa Igiebor, (Hapoel Tel Aviv, Israel)

Strikers: Michael Babatunde (Kvybas, Ukraine), Olanrewaju Kayode (Asec, Cote d'Ivoire), Stephen Worgu (Al Merriekh, Sudan), Gbolahan Salami (Shooting Stars), Osas Okoro (Heartland), Jude Aneke (Kaduna United), Daniel Uchechi (Sheffield Wednesday, England), Odah Onoriode (Fame FC)

Stand-by: Atu Irumekhai (Unattached), Rasheed Olabiyi (Enyimba), Semiu Laide (Bukola Babes), Papa Idris (Kaduna United), Olaitan Otubanjo (Atletico Madrid).

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