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Osimhen hat-trick powers Nigeria to Olympics triumph


Johannesburg (AFP) – Victor Osimhen scored a hat-trick as Nigeria swept aside Libya in the second half to win 4-0 Monday and reach the third qualifying round of the 2020 Olympic Games football tournament.

The Belgium-based striker was drafted into the team after a shock 2-0 first leg loss last Wednesday and demonstrated his worth with the treble.

Nigeria won the tie 4-2 on aggregate and will face Kenya or Sudan, who take a two-goal lead into the return match in Nairobi Tuesday, in the next round during June.

Osimhen, on loan to Charleroi from Bundesliga outfit VfL Wolfsburg, opened the scoring after 33 minutes of a first half staged in 33 degree celsius (92 fahrenheit) heat.

Nigeria should have been more than one goal ahead by half-time in southeastern town Asaba as they were denied several times by the woodwork.

The second half was one-way traffic toward the Libyan goalmouth and Osimhen completed his hat-trick with goals on 67 and 82 minutes.

Libya needed a goal to move ahead on aggregate through the away-goal rule, but it was Nigeria who netted again, this time through David Okereke in the final minute.

The Nigerian squad finished the match four million naira ($11,100) richer as senior team captain Ahmed Musa promised a million naira for every goal his compatriots scored. 

Nigeria are the most successful African country in Olympics football, winning the 1996 Atlanta tournament and finishing runners-up to Argentina in Beijing 12 years later.

In Abidjan, the Ivory Coast hammered Niger 6-1 to equal the biggest winning margin set by Kenya in a 2020 qualifier in Africa.

Leading 2-1 from the first leg, the Ivorians scored three goals in each half at home with Italy-based Willy Braciano bagging a brace.

Ivory Coast are likely to face tougher opposition in the third round when they come up against Guinea, who surprisingly eliminated Senegal.

A further seven qualifiers are scheduled for Tuesday with Ghana and South Africa poised to advance after building impressive first leg leads.

Olympics qualifiers are restricted to under-23 footballers with three over-age stars permitted at the finals.

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