Afcon 2019: Five things Nigeria learnt against Burundi

Super Eagles - Nigeria
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The Super Eagles worked their socks off to claim a narrow victory against the Swallows at the Alexandria Stadium, thanks to Odion Ighalo

  1. Chukwueze's brilliance
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    Chukwueze's brilliance

    The Villarreal man is arguably the most highly-rated player in the Super Eagles squad and simply continues to justify his inclusion on the plane to Egypt. Making his Africa Cup of Nations debut, Chukwueze was very lively once again, pulling all the strings in attack with his pace, footwork and deft touches. Though he missed a gilt-edged chance late in the first half after Alex Iwobi’s nice cut-back pass, it didn’t rob him of the wonderful evening he had in Alexandria.

  2. Jekyll and Hyde Akpeyi
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    Jekyll and Hyde Akpeyi

    Goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi was the preferred choice against the Swallows, having started Nigeria’s two Afcon warm-up friendlies against Zimbabwe and Senegal, and it looked like he was finally redeeming his lost international pedigree, with some fine saves, especially in the first half. His demons were however unleashed again, making a couple of poor errors, his handling a cause for concern. It will leave Gernot Rohr scratching his head on who to start between the sticks against Guinea next Wednesday.

  3. Solid Burundi's defensive shape
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    Solid Burundi's defensive shape

    Considered underdogs for the tie, Olivier Niyungeko’s men were far from that, with their strong defensive showing keeping the Super Eagles at bay until the 77th minute, when Odion Ighalo struck. The Central Africans also threatened on the break, with Cedric Amissi missing from close range. It might have been a bad day in the office for Burundi when they really should have gotten something out of the game, but they’ll still be proud of how they performed in their first ever Afcon match.

  4. Ageing Mikel
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    Ageing Mikel

    Captain John Obi Mikel was thrust into the starting line-up, a year from his last tournament appearance at the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia. Playing in the number 10 role, the former Chelsea midfielder showed signs of his old form, but his impact began to fade and he was ultimately substituted approaching the hour mark. Mikel might still be a valuable member of the Super Eagles squad, with his experience second to none. Signs are that he is gradually becoming of age and might not be used to the high intensity anymore.

  5. Aina dazzles

    Aina dazzles

    Ola Aina has had a very muted stint so far with the Super Eagles since making his debut in October 2017. He started in place of Jamilu Collins who was unavailable after being struck with a virus. He put in a good shift offensively and defensively this time. He produced the best moment of the game, with his exquisite back heel finding Odion Ighalo - who did the rest in scoring. It’s probably a sign that things are coming together for Aina – who recently signed for Italian outfit Torino from Chelsea, after a fine season in the Serie A. With his display on Saturday evening, the 22-year-old versatile fullback could just have convinced Rohr that he deserves to have a starting berth.