Only a few hours ago, Nigeria took all three points against underdogs Burundi in a hotly contested match at Alexandria Stadium in Egypt.
Olivier Niyungeko's players kept the Super Eagles from succeeding in front of goal until a 77th-minute poacher's effort by Odion Ighalo. While Nigeria were expected to beat Burundi without batting an eye, the reality was certainly different.
While Burundi remain debutants in this competition, they have proven that they cannot be tossed aside easily. The Eagles found it difficult putting the ball in the net and faltered consistently in the final third. Burundi's defence kept Nigeria at bay almost throughout the game and they deserve the credit for losing by only one goal. However, the best player for Burundi was Gael Bigirimana who helped his team stabilize the middle of the park with accurate passes and key deliveries into the final third.
Nigeria, on the other hand, had poor composure and an inefficient attack throughout the game. This was largely due to John Mikel Obi who couldn't keep up with the synergy of his younger, excited teammates although he played a pivotal position in the attacking midfield. Ahmed Musa, who came on for Obi, improved the team's speed and urgency with his pacey runs and agility.
Nigeria may have taken home three points, but they haven't taken the solid goal difference they would have hoped for. Burundi are clear underdogs who, with a bit more luck, could have beat the three-time champions of Africa.
Let us now take a look at five important points in the hotly contested Nigeria vs Burundi match.
#1 The experienced Nigerian players clearly underperformed
The experience that comes with age is very beneficial. However, when it comes to football, raw talent, youthful exuberance, and a determination to win can be other factors that can trounce experience on a good day.
Taking a deeper look at the Nigerian team Gernot Rohr fielded against Burundi shows us just how true this is. The only player over the age of 28 that had a reasonable outing was a composed Odion Ighalo who scored the only goal of the game. The experienced players, in general, held the team back or made things difficult for their teammates.
Super Eagles veteran Mikel Obi underwhelmed in every way. He was neither an effective No. 10 in the traditional role nor in the modern improved role. With a passing accuracy of 74% and only one key pass, Mikel did not do justice to his position. After 57 minutes, the coach had had enough and replaced him.
32-year-old goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi might have made some saves to keep Nigeria in the game, but those do not exclude his obvious blunders. He didn't look confident, dropped a cross late in the game, and unnecessarily gifted Burundi a corner. Even 30-year-old Ighalo who scored the winner made only 9 touches after coming on in the 72nd minute.