Nigeria U23 team will seek to retain their U23 AFCON title in Egypt as they battle for a ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics football event.
The 2019 U23 AFCON will be played between November 8 and 22.
Nigeria won the last edition in 2015 and will be looking forward to lift the trophy again in Egypt.
Coach Imama Amapakabo will be banking on as many as 15 foreign-based professionals complimented by six players from the domestic league to succeed in Egypt.
Nigeria are drawn in what looks like an evenly balanced Group B alongside Cote d’Ivoire, South Africa and Zambia.
Some of the stars for Nigeria include former Golden Eaglets captain Kelechi Nwakali, U23 captain Okechukwu Azubuike, who led the team to victory in Senegal four years ago and Orji Okwonkwo, who shone in the Major League Soccer (MLS) this year.
Azubuke, Ndifreke Effiong and Sincere Seth featured at the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil, where Nigeria won bronze medal.
However, preparations have again been chaotic with players threatening a pay strike to press for the payment of allowances and outstanding bonuses from the qualifiers.
Group A has the hosts Egypt, Cameroon, Ghana and Mali.
It won’t be an easy ride for Nigeria as Cameroon, who last featured in Olympic games football event at Beijing 2008, are eager to return, while Ghana, the first Africa team to win an Olympic football medal at Barcelona 1992, are looking for a ticket to play at the event since Athens 2004.
The competition kicks off today with the hosts Egypt and Mali doing battle.
Nigeria will begin their title defence tomorrow when they face Cote d’Ivoire by 4pm Nigerian time.
The top three at this competition will represent Africa at the Olympics football event of Tokyo 2020.