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Africa Cup of Nations

Afcon 2019: Nigeria were lucky to score against Burundi – John Obi Mikel

23:13 BST 22/06/2019
John Obi Mikel Nigeria 2018
The Super Eagles captain has admitted that his team were fortunate to find the back of the net against a ‘very organised’ Burundi side

Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel was full of praise for Burundi’s display in what was a keenly contested Africa Cup of Nations Group B opener at the Alexandria Stadium.

Olivier Niyungeko’s men produced an inspiring performance against Nigeria in what was their first ever Afcon match.

Having qualified for the continental showpiece without a single defeat from a group which had the likes of Mali and Gabon, the Swallows truly proved in the game that their feat in the qualifiers wasn’t a fluke.

Their solid defensive wall was, however, breached in the 77th minute, when Ola Aina found substitute Odion Ighalo in the box, via a sublime back-heel pass, with the Shanghai Shenhua frontman dispatching with consummate ease.

In his reaction to the game, the Nigeria captain praised the Afcon debutants and also admitted that the group which contains Guinea and another tournament newcomer in Madagascar, isn’t an easy one.

“Yeah, it’s not an easy group, it’s a very tough group,” Mikel told the media.

 “You can see from today – they [Burundi] are a very organized team, very tough to break down. We were lucky to get the goal.

“I think we played well. We had most of the ball, but we couldn’t break them down – we couldn’t get the goal. So it was very crucial for us to get these three points today."

Following this win, the Super Eagles will next take on Paul Put’s Guinea on June 26, and Mikel wants only the three points against the Syli Nationale.

“We need to try again to win the next game. We need to try also to win the second game and hopefully qualify from this group as quickly as possible – and then look forward to the next stage,” the 32-year-old midfielder added.

Nigeria currently tops the standings, and would next take on Guinea, who played out a 2-2 draw against Madagascar in the other Group B fixture on Saturday.