EXCLUSIVE: Nigeria's Ola Aina welcomes challenge after impressive Afcon 2019 outing against Burundi

The defender put in a fine shift as the Super Eagles subdued the Swallows and has accepted the challenge he faces to win a regular first team slot

Ola Aina is ready to challenge the other Super Eagles defenders to become Nigeria’s first-choice left-back, after helping the team to victory against Burundi in the Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday.

After missing out of a place in the country’s 2018 Fifa World Cup team to Russia, the 22-year-old made a return to Gernot Rohr’s squad thanks to his impressive performances at Torino.

Against the Swallows on Saturday, he made his Afcon debut, and his defence-splitting back-heel found Odion Ighalo, who got the only goal of the tight encounter.

Fuelled by his fine outing against the Afcon debutants, he is now prepared to contest with other national team players for regular appearances going forward.

“No one has a permanent place in the team because the country is blessed with so many talents,” Aina told Goal.

“We have a good squad of 23 and anyone can be called upon to play at any time.

“So, it’s a good competition for me and everyone in the team because it will enable us to keep our levels high in training and in matches.

“Nothing is given as everyone must work very hard and put in everything to make the team.”

Aina admits that Olivier Niyungeko’s side were a thorn in the flesh of the three-time Africa champions, however, Aina was delighted his side took all three points – insisting that the triumph would keep them going as they chase the ultimate prize.

“I’m very happy to represent Nigeria in a big tournament like this and I was ready to go,” he continued.

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“Burundi were very tough and gave us a good fight but we were happy we emerged victorious after the final whistle.

“Winning the first game of a competition is good for any team and ours is not different. We’re happy with the win and we hope that keeps us going in the tournament.”

Nigeria face Guinea in their next game on Wednesday, and a victory will send them into the next round.