Nigeria opens its Africa Cup of Nation 2019 campaign by welcoming newcomer Burundi on June 22, 2019, at the Alexandria Stadium in Alexandria, Egypt.
The 2013 AFCON champions are bracketed in Group B along with Guinea, Madagascar, and Burundi. The top two teams in the group will advance to the knockout round along with the Top four third-placed teams. The winner of Group B will take on the best third placer from Groups A/C/D while the 2nd placed team from the group will face the Runner-up of Group F. Meanwhile, if the third-placed team in Group B makes it, they will play the winner of Group D in the Round of 16.
Nigeria (Group B)
Nigeria will make its first appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time since winning the tournament in 2013. Although this is their 18th overall appearance in the AFCON, the Super Eagles did not qualify for the tournament in 2015 and 2017. Nigeria topped Group E of the 2019 AFCON qualifying tournament to mark their return to the competition which they also won in 1980 and 1994.
German coach Gernot Rohr’s 2019 squad includes Premier League players like Alex Iwobi of Arsenal, Wilfred Ndidi of Leicester City and Brighton & Hove Albion’s Leon Balugon. The Super Eagles head to the tournament on a roll as they have lost just a single a match since the 2018 World Cup.
- Goalkeepers: Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs/RSA), Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Katsina Utd), Francis Uzoho (Anorthosis Famagusta/CYP)
- Defenders: Olaoluwa Aina (Torino/ITA), Chidozie Awaziem (Caykur Rizespor/TUR), Leon Balogun (Brighton/ENG), Jamilu Collins (Paderborn/GER), William Ekong (Udinese/ITA), Kenneth Omeruo (Leganes/ESP), Abdullahi Shehu (Bursaspor/TUR)
- Midfielders: Oghenekaro Etebo (Stoke City/ENG), John Obi Mikel (Middlesbrough/ENG), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City/ENG), John Ogu (Hapoel Be’er Sheva/ISR)
- Forwards: Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal/ESP), Odion Ighalo (Shanghai Shenhua/CHN), Alex Iwobi (Arsenal/ENG), Samuel Kalu (Bordeaux/FRA), Ahmed Musa (Al Nassr/KSA), Paul Onuachu (Midtjyland/DEN), Henry Onyekuru (Galatasaray/TUR), Victor Osimhen (Royal Charleroi/BEL), Moses Simon (Levante/ESP)
Odds from Titanbet.com as of 6/19/19
Burundi (Group B)
While Nigeria is making its comeback in this event, Burundi is making its first-ever appearance in the continental tournament. Burundi came close to qualifying for the AFCON in 1994 but they lost via penalties to Guinea in a playoff. This time around, the Les Hirondelles earned their spot in the 2019 AFCON by finishing as the runners-up behind Mali in Group C of the qualifying tournament.
Coach Olivier Niyungeko’s squad includes a lot of unknown names in the international scene. But it features former Stoke City F.C. striker Saido Berahino. Prior to his stint with the Potters, Berahino played 105 matches for West Bromwich Albion in the English Football League Championship where he scored a total of 23 goals.
Here is Niyuneko’s squad for the 2019 AFCON:
- Goalkeepers: MacArthur Arakaza, Justin Ndikumana (both Sofapaka/KEN), Jonathan Nahimana (Vital’O)
- Defenders: Omar Moussa (Sofapaka/KEN), Christophe Nduwarugira (Uniao Madeira/POR), Omar Ngando (Kigali/RWA), Abdoul Karim Nizigiymana (Vipers/UGA), Frederic Nsabiyumva (Chippa Utd/RSA), David Nshimirimana (Mukura Victory/RWA)
- Midfielders: Gael Bigirimana (unattached), Gael Duhayindavyi (Mukura Victory/RWA), Pierre Kwizera (Al-Orouba/OMA), Shassir Nahimana (Al-Mujazzal/KSA), Enock Nsabumukama (Zesco Utd/ZAM), Hussein Shabani (Coffee/ETH)
- Forwards: Cedric Amissi (Al-Taawoun/KSA), Mohamed Amissi (NAC Breda/NED), Saido Berahino (Stoke City/ENG), Elvis Kasomba (Melbourne Victory/AUS), Laudit Mavugo (Napsa Stars/ZAM), Francis Mustafa (Gor Mahia/KEN), Selemani Yamini Ndikumana (Al-Adalh/KSA), Fiston Abdoul Razak (JS Kabylie/ALG)
Nigeria has been rolling since the 2018 World Cup. The Super Eagles have lost just once ( as of June 17th ) since Russia and have posted a record of six wins, one loss and two draws. They won four games and drew once in the AFCON qualifiers, giving up just a total of four goals while scoring a total of 11 during that period. In a friendly last March, Nigeria defeated AFCON 2019 hosts and AFCON 2019 soccer betting favorites Egypt 1-0 last March 27th. The Super Eagles’ only defeat was a 0-1 loss to Senegal last June 17th.
On the other hand, the Swallows were camped in Qatar and held Algeria to a 1-1 draw in an international friendly last June 11th. Burundi then traveled to Tunis where they suffered a 1-2 loss at the hands of Tunisia to complete their preparations for their maiden appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations. Burundi has won just once in their last eight matches with six of those games ending in a draw.
Despite their early exit at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Nigeria remains a solid group which is led by Premier League players and supported by talented young stars like Samuel Chukwueze and Paul Onuachu. Nigeria Captain Obi Mikel was a member of the 2013 Nations winning team and the former Chelsea star hinted that this may be his last international tournament, giving the Super Eagles added motivation to win it for their captain. With just the right mix of veteran stars and young talents, Nigeria pulls out this win against the newcomers Burundi. Prediction: Nigeria