Johannesburg: Nigeria demonstrated what a good away team they are by forcing a 0-0 draw in Congo Brazzaville at the weekend to win a 2016 Olympic Games football qualifier.
Known as the ‘Dream Team’, the west Africans advanced 2-1 on aggregate after winning the first leg in Port Harcourt two weeks ago by that score.
Nigeria also impressed on the road this year in qualifiers for the 2015 All-Africa Games, an under-23 competition like the Olympics.
After hammering Gabon 4-1 in Libreville, they overcame Zambia 2-1 in Lusaka to reach the Africa tournament during September in Brazzaville.
In November, Nigeria will join hosts Senegal, Algeria, Egypt, Mali, South Africa, Tunisia and Zambia at an Olympic tournament, with three 2016 Rio Games places up for grabs.
After wasting many first-leg chances, Nigeria coach Samson Siasia vowed that his team would attack a Congolese side guided by veteran French coach Claude Le Roy at Stade Municipal in Atlantic oil hub Pointe-Noire.
Keeping the promise, the ‘Dream Team’ spent much of the opening half on the offensive with Usman Mohammed, Daniel Etor and Oghenekaro Etebo threatening to score.
Even during a more balanced second half, Nigeria created the better chances and substitute Aminu Umar squandered a late chance to win the second leg.
Nigeria have been the most successful African football nation at the Olympics, winning the 1996 Atlanta tournament and finishing runners-up to Argentina in Beijing seven years ago.
Mali followed up a solitary-goal away victory over Gabon by winning the return match 2-0 at Stade Modibo Keita in Bamako.
The Gabonese had to score first to have a realistic chance of salvaging the tie, and they did after 68 minutes.
Unfortunately for the visitors, the goal came at the wrong end of the pitch with Mboudou Karl putting the ball into his net.
Adama Traore added a second Mali goal a minute from time to earn his team an easier-than-expected passage to Senegal for the November 28-December 12 tournament.
Mali qualified once for the Olympics football tournament, topping a 2004 Athens group before losing to Italy in the quarter-finals.