Nigeria today began the defence of the U23 AFCON title on a rather shaky note when they fell 1-0 to Cote d’Ivoire in their opening Group B clash in Cairo, Egypt.
The U23s were poor and lethargic and they paid the penalty in the 71st minute when the Ivorians converted a spot kick through Silas Gnaka, which many contested did not cross the goalline.
The spot kick was after defender Olisa Ndah was sent off after his second booking for fouling Christian Kouma in the box.
The Ivorians carved out some clear chances, like in the 56th minute, when Amani was put through by the lively Kouma only to fire wide off target with goalkeeper Adamu Abubakar at his mercy.
They also threatened Nigeria goal in the 39th and 44th minutes.
Orji Okwonkwo, who carried the little threat posed upfront, will see his header in the 65th minute come off the bar.
Captain Kelechi Nwakali was disappointing as he appeared to struggle physically, while the likes of Sincere Seth, Muyiwa Olabiran also offered very little.
Coach Imama Amapakabo tried to energise the attack with the introduction of Sunday Faleye and Sunusi Ibrahim in the second half but to no effect.
Nigeria’s next game will be against South Africa Tuesday, before they round up the group phase against Zambia on Friday.