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Africa Cup of Nations

Nigeria will not underrate any team at Afcon, says Leon Balogun

18:45 GMT+3 21/06/2019
Ahmed Musa, Leon Balogun
Ahead of their opening fixture on Saturday, the Brighton and Hove Albion defender disclosed how Nigeria will approach their games in Egypt

Nigeria defender Leon Balogun stated that they will not underestimate the quality of teams in their Afcon group.

The Super Eagles are paired against two debutants in Burundi and Madagascar, as well as Guinea in Group B, and they will open their campaign against the Swallows at the Alexandria Stadium on Saturday.

The Brighton centre-back, who is set to make his first appearance in the biennial competition, thinks every game will demand their best.

“Some people will look at our group and think it will be easy, but there are no such games at tournaments like this one," Balogun told his club' website.

“Sometimes when you play teams who people consider to be underdogs you have your hardest matches – you only have to look at someone likes ourselves at Brighton to see how much you can put the bigger teams under pressure and give them a tough time.

“Once we get through the group stage you can start thinking in this way, but for us, the next game is always the hardest one and that’s the mentality we’ll have to have for the tournament.”

Nigeria will be at Afcon for the first time since their successful outing in South Africa in 2013, having failed to qualify in 2015 and 2017.

Balogun shed light on the atmosphere in the West African nation and fans' expectations from the team.

“It's a big occasion for the whole of Nigeria. We haven’t been part of the last two and after winning the trophy [in 2013] there’s also been a bit of disappointment at that,” he continued.

“It’s far different to something like a World Cup. Nigeria have always been one of the most successful African nations – to have not been part of the last two tournaments was tough.

“We’ll be one of the sides that people think will go close to winning it, and certainly inside the dressing room, there’ll be a lot of the team who’ll want to lift the trophy. that’s the reason you go to tournaments like this, but there’s a lot of competition.”