Super Eagles of Nigeria will begin their quest for a fourth Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title as they open Group B against the Swallows of Burundi this evening.
The three-time AFCON Champions go into the competition as one of the favorites to clinch the most important footballing title in Africa. The Eagles will be hoping to kick off their Campaign with a win. DailyAdvent will x-ray five things likely decide the game between Nigeria and Burundi.
1) The Underdogs: The Burundian’s go into the encounter as underdogs and little is expected of them, it is just like a proverbial David and Goliath scenario, it is expected that the Swallows will be destroyed by the Super Eagles.
This could make the Eagles overconfident and work in favor of the Burundian’s who could cause a major upset for the Eagles. Burundi proved they could be giant-killers earlier in qualification against a Gabon side that has quality players like Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and others that all ply their trade across Europe top Leagues.
The Swallows will look to tap from the experience of former English Premier League Saido Berahino who plies his trade with Stoke City in the Championship. The former Westbrom forward will look to make a debut statement at this year’s AFCON against Nigeria with his sleek moves and hopefully catch the Nigerian defenders on the back foot with his speed.
2) Experience: This may play a major factor in Nigeria vs Burundi encounter when they lock horns in their opening game of the 2019 AFCON. In the area of experience in the AFCON business the Super Eagles are at an advantage with three titles to the bag, experienced player like John Mikel Obi, Ahmed Musa, Alex Iwobi, Wilfred Ndidi who can dominate the midfield then Kenneth Omeruo, William Troost-Ekong, Leon Balogun and in-form Ola Aina all in the defence.
The Burundian’s are at a disadvantage as they have a few player that can hold their own in the Likes of Saido Berahino, Fiston Abdul Razak and Selemani Ndikumana but these players experience could prove valuable for the debutants.
3) Goalkeeping: In the area of goalkeeping the Burundians may have a slight advantage over the Super Eagles of Nigeria becuase in- form Burundian shot stopper MacArthur Arakaza has a wealth of experience in African football and is set to be the man in goal for the Swallows of Burundi. He will play a key role for his team compared to the inexperienced and lack of playing time this season at his club may affect the Nigeria’s AFCON debutant Francis Uzoho.
The Eagles shotstopper though showed promise at the 2018 FIFA World-cup in Russia but has to venture into a new terrain. Uzoho lacks AFCON experience to step in the shoes of the long line of legendary Nigerian goalkeepers like Ike Shorunmu, Peter Rufai and most recently Vincent Enyeama just to mention a few, who have done the country proud.
4) Forward line: The Burundians who are AFCON debutants will rely on the fast pace of their attackers to do the damage against the Super Eagles. While Nigeria’s natural pattern of football is wing play from the era of Segun Odegbami to the era of Emmanuel Amunike, then Tijani Babangida to the new crop of Eagles winger who will have to prove their worth.
The Super Eagles will have some debutants who are highly skillful and raring to create a niche at the 2019 AFCON – players like Samuel Chukwueze who his heroics in the Spanish La Liga has gained attention of top European clubs, Samuel Kalu, Moses Simon, and FIFA Worldcup hero Ahmed Musa this players should certainly bring the desired support the Nigeria attack needs.
5) Special players with game changing abilities: Both teams have influential players they would be looking up to for inspiration. Burundi’s most capped player, Karim Nizigiyimana has featured for the Swallows 52 times and his team will expect his wealth of experience to count when they face Nigeria. Saido Berahino with just 7 caps to his name but is the only Burundian to have played in the premier league.
He is seen as a striker with class and high mentality and Burundi will be banking on his professionalism in front of goal against the Super Eagles. The Star studded Nigerian side have many players that can be game changers but will look to mercurial captain John Mikel Obi to lead the squad from the midfield.
World Cup hero, Ahmed Musa is also one influential player in the Super Eagles, the fleet-footed winger can be deadly in front of goal. Villareal winger, Samuel Chukwueze is also one player that we should looked out for.
He is a versatile player that can be deadly on both the left and right wing. The Super Eagles will also look to striker Odion Ighalo to lead the attack. The highest goal scorer during the AFCON qualifier will be looking to compensate Nigerians, after his abysmal performance at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.