Three time African champions, the Super Eagles of Nigeria started their campaign for a fourth title with a slim win over the Swallows of Burundi. A second half goal by substitute Odion Ighalo was all Gernot Rohr’s men needed for the first three points.
Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr announced his starting XI to face the Sparrows of Burundi in Nigeria’s AFCON 2019 opener, dropping Odion Ighalo, Francis Uzoho and Jamilu Collins for Paul Onuachi, Daniel Akpeyi and Ola Aina respectively in a 4-3-3 formation.
Ighalo scored Nigeria’s only goal in the game moments after coming on for Paul Onuachu. A sublime back heeled pass by Ola Aina and an emphatic first time effort by the China based forward was all the Super Eagles needed to go ahead in the game.
Here are the five things learnt in the game:
1. Chukwueze needs maturity:
One the best player for Super Eagles in the match was the Villarreal winger Samuel Chukwueze. The 19-year-old forward was constant threat for the Sparrows on the right flanks but he needs to add more to his game.
Chukwueze showed that he’s got pace and can dribbles but he lacks the maturity of delivering the final ball when he gets into the Burundians box. With his current style of play, Super Eagles need his delivery balls to be 100 percent in other games to come.
2. Mikel should play alongside Ndidi in the holding midfield:
The Super Eagles captain shows that he is getting off the pace for the attacking midfield role for the national team. He is better off playing the defensive midfield role alongside Wilfred Ndidi with Alex Iwobi and Oghenekaro Etebo being a better option compared to the former Chelsea star in the attacking midfield role.
The likes of Etebo and Iwobi moves the ball more compared to Mikel. Both players are more creative and have more energy to drive the ball in the midfield. Mikel is getting slower day by day, which is having a bad effect on his game, He gets caught up in wrong positions and losing the ball to opponents easily.
3. Akpeyi has a lot of work to do:
Gernot Rohr opted for Daniel Akpeyi ahead of Francis Uzoho in goal but the Kazier Chief’s shot-stopper lacks confidence. He has been a victim of criticism from Nigerian fans for making costly mistakes in games and this match was no exception.
Akpeyi’s lack of confidence in goal against the Sparrows which almost cost the Eagles the game. If he wants to keep mounting the goal for the Eagles in this competition he needs to work more on his confidence level in goal.
4. Eagles have no fear factor:
Super Eagles are rated as one of the best teams coming into this tournament but in their game against Burundi, they failed to show the Sparrows that they one of the best team on the continent.
Burundi show the three-time AFCON champions no respect after taking the game to them in their opening match. Rohr’s men failed to create clear cut chances in the game as Burundi’s plan worked on the Eagles.
5. Ighalo is Suoer Eagles perfect number 9
Ighalo is one of the most criticised Super Eagles players in recent years, but he has always show that he is the only perfect striker the country has for now. The former Watford striker was the highest goalscorer in the qualifying stages with 7 goals and he took up where he left from in the main competition.
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Ighalo’s inclusion the second half changed the game entirely and it eventually paid off in the 77th minute as he scored a wonderful goal to give Nigeria the lead.