ODION Ighalo came off the bench to score
the goal that gave former champions Nigeria a 1-0 victory over stubborn minnows
– Swallows of Burundi on Saturday in the opening Africa Cup of Nations Group B
The Shanghai Shenhua forward had been on
the pitch only four minutes in Egyptian Mediterranean city Alexandria when he
struck the 77th-minute winner.
It was an unconvincing performance from the
three-time trophy-holders, who lacked attacking sharpness against
Bookmakers have made Nigeria
fourth-favourites to win the competition, behind hosts and record seven-time
champions Egypt, Senegal and Ghana.
Debutants Burundi battled bravely
throughout before a small crowd that included four-time African Footballer of
the Year Samuel Eto’o from Cameroon, one of the tournament ambassadors.
The Swallows, who qualified at the expense
of a Gabon team including Arsenal star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, lie 89 places
below Nigeria in the world rankings.
But they showed no signs of inferiority
during the opening half in the ancient city and came closest to breaking the
deadlock during the first 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, Ghana will take their turn at
the Nations Cup tomorrow when they take on the Squirrels of Benin in a cagey
Group F clash. The Black Stars are in the same group with Cameroon and Guinea
Super Eagles of Nigeria win opening game
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