The Super Eagles of Nigeria will be playing their first Africa Cup of Nations match since 2013 when they take on debutants Burundi at the Alexandria Stadium on Saturday, June 22 at 7 pm.
The Nigerians have missed the last two AFCON editions and coming up against a side who are making their first appearance, Nigeria are seen as favorites heading into the tie. Therefore, they will be under pressure to deliver against a quick and high pressing Burundian side in their first ever meeting.
Burundi qualified as runners up in their group and they did so without losing a match winning three games and picking a similar number of draws. They promise to be no pushovers and have vowed to put their best performance.
Building up to AFCON, Burundi played two friendly matches, drawing 1-1 with Algeria in their first game in Doha, Qatar before losing 2-1 to Tunisia in Rades courtesy of a late goal by Naim Sliti.
Nigeria who won the tournament in their last appearance in 2013 have reached 13 semi-finals in their last 15 appearances at the competition. Since 1982, they have never failed to make it past the group stages and their worst performance since then was a quarter final exit in 2008 when the tournament was hosted in Ghana.
Coached by German Gernot Rhor, they will look to continue the tradition and winning their opening game against Burundi will be a key step in ensuring they keep their hopes of a fourth African title alive. The Nigerians have always posted mixed results in their opening day matches, but a majority of them have been won.
Burundi national football team
Their worst ever day one performance was in 1990 when they lost 5-1 to Algeria. In their build up matches, Nigeria drew 0-0 with Zimbabwe and lost 1-0 to Senegal.
Players to watch:
Cedric Amissi – The pacy winger has scored in each of the last four games in national team colors and played a starring role in the team’s qualification. His creativity and eye for goal should be a threat for the Nigerian backline.
Abdul Razak Fiston - The JS Kabilye forward scored six goals in qualification and was the second top scorer in the qualifiers after Nigeria’s Odion Ighalo.
Saido Berahino: Berahino switched allegiance to Burundi and has been rewarded with being handed the captain’s armband for the competition, taking over from Karim Nizigiyimana. As one of the most exposed players in the team, all eyes will be on Berahino to guide Les Hirondelles.
John Obi Mikel – The midfielder returns to the team for the first time since their World Cup campaign in Russia in 2018 and his leadership from the middle of the pack will always be crucial for the super eagles. He is among the only three players in the tournament to be playing at his second AFCON in Egypt having been with the squad in 2006.
Odion Ighalo – Having carried on his scoring form to Russia, the striker who scored seven goals during qualification will carry the burden of scoring goals for the Nigerians at the AFCON.
Alex Iwobi – The Arsenal man scored the goal that took Nigeria to the World Cup in Russia, but his pace and skill on the wing will be expected more when he makes his AFCON debut for Nigeria this year.