Nigeria yesterday failed to qualify for next year’s FIVB U-21 World Championship after the junior national team lost 0-3 to their Cameroon counterparts in the third-place game of the African U-21 championship which has just ended in Tunisia.
With this loss, Nigeria failed to finish in the top three of the championship, losing in straight sets, 21-25 20-25 23-25 in the match.
Sluggish since the start of the match, the Nigerian team left the initiative to their opponents in the first set, an advantage they took to lead by 7-2 points. It became a tough fight for Nigeria from there but they managed to limit the Cameroonians to a 25-21 lead.
The second period looked promising for Nigeria, who were leading 13-11, but a few unforced errors caused them to lose the set by 25-20 points.
Nigeria looked on a resurgence in the final set, holding Cameroon 23-23 at one point, but the winners had two quick blocks to win the deciding third set 25-23.
Although worried about the loss, Nigeria head coach Sani Mohammed, however, congratulated his players for finishing fourth in the league. He said they had done well throughout as they had no chance of succeeding in the competition.
“I’m really proud of the players. Our intention was to choose one of the available slots for the 2023 FIVB World Championship, but in the end we were unable to achieve this.
“The last time we participated in the Under-21 Championship, we finished sixth; now we finished fourth. So that’s an improvement. We entered this competition as underdogs because our results hadn’t been impressive in the under-21 category,” he said.
Mohammed said most of his players have the potential to become world champions in the near future and advised the Nigerian Volleyball Federation (NVBF) to keep the players together for future fixtures.
“The players have been together for a long time and I have a firm belief that they will become world champions in the future. I appeal to the management of the federation to keep this set of players, because their best hasn’t been seen by the world yet,” the coach said.
Only three teams will represent Africa at the 2023 International Federation of Volleyball (FIVB) World Cup. They are champions, Egypt, Tunisia and Cameroon.
The 2022 Africa Men’s Under-21 Volleyball Championship, which started on August 13, ended yesterday.