The inability of the Super Eagles to qualify for the last two editions of the African Cup of Nations left a bitter taste in the mouths of many Nigerians. Their exit from the group stage in the World Cup was nearly as bitter. This edition of AFCON gives the Nigerian football team an opportunity to make up for their recent failures, and they intend to take it with both hands.
The Eagles play their first game of the competition against a technically poorer Burundi side on 22 June 2019. While Burundi might give Nigeria a tough time, the Eagles gaffer Gernot Rohr will expect the team to leave the pitch with 3 points. Nigeria have lost only one match since the World Cup game against Argentina that cemented their exit. Burundi, on the other hand, have not won a match since their home game against Seychelles in October 2015.
Nigeria would have to be wary about Burundi's strike force that include Fiston Abdoul-Razak and former Stoke City striker Saido Berahino. While the Eagles' defence can see off their challenges, any slipup in concentration could lead to conceding a goal by any of the duo.
The Super Eagles, on the other hand, will rely on the raw pace, agility, and technical abilities of Ahmed Musa and Samuel Chukwueze to create chances in the final third.
Gernot Rohr will begin their Cup of Nations matchday with the full squad of 23 at his disposal.
While Rohr started the Eagles in a 3-5-2 formation against Argentina, he is likely to revert to 4-3-3 against Burundi.
Odion Ighalo will lead the line-up front, assisted by Ahmed Musa and Samuel Chukwueze on each side.
Wilfred Ndidi will play box-to-box in the midfield alongside captain John Mikel Obi and Ogenyi Onazi.
Troost-Ekong, Leon Balogun, Jamiu Collins, and Shehu Abdullahi will form the 4-man defence that will aid Francis Uzoho who will start between the sticks.
Wilfred Ndidi: Leicester City's dynamo of a player will be Rohr's most important player. While the young star may not have N'Golo Kante's abilities, he certainly has what it takes to cover every blade of grass. Defensively, his consistency in tackling and interceptions will benefit the team, while his key passes will surely trouble the opposition a number of times.Published 17 Jun 2019, 02:16 IST