Through to expectations, Nigeria defeated Guinea 1-0 to qualify for the second round of the on-going African Cup of Nations even with a game to go.Pundits tipped the Super Eagles to wi8n Group B and maintained their leadership of the pool and they did just that although through an unlikely source.
Odion Ighalo, Paul Onuachu, Ahmed Musa, Alex Iwobi and Oghenekaro Etebo are the regular goal scorers for the Super Eagles, but yesterday defender, Kenneth Omeruo became the hero when he rose above everybody else to nod home the winning goal.
The victory maintained Nigeria’s tradition of qualifying for events with a game to spare. The Super Eagles qualified for the Russia 2018 World Cup even before the last round of matches were played and also made sure of their ticket to Egypt with a game to spare. But yesterday’s win did not come cheap even though goalkeeper, Daniel Akpeyi was largely untested throughout the match.
The Eagles did not find their rhythm in the first half and allowed the Guineans to dominate play. But they came on stronger in the second half in which Alex Iwobi forced a smart one –handed save from Guinea’s goalkeeper Ibrahim Kone from a snap shot.
Nigeria played without Captain Mikel Obi and William Ekong, with Chukwueze also benched for Simon and Ighalo starting in place of Paul Onuachu. Yet, the Super Eagles did not look intensely creative in the first half hour and it was largely the organization of Kenneth Omeruo, Leon Balogun, Chidozie Awaziem and Ola Aina at the back that ensured a barren scoreline at the interval.
Iwobi had movement and endeavour but gave the ball away severally, and Ighalo must have punched himself after side-netting with Musa waiting eagerly to raze the net from close range in the 32nd minute. Earlier, Ighalo had, with a poor first touch, fumbled a good pass from Musa after the latter’s run down the left, and Iwobi also wasted another excellent pass by the pacy deputy captain.
The Super Eagles need only a draw from their last match of the group phase against Madagascar on Sunday to finish top of the group and remain in Alexandria for their Round of 16 fixture.