Nigeria First Country to Qualify for AFCON 2019 Round of 16
- Defeats Guinea 1-0 to pick six points to land in next round
Nigeria became the first team to qualify for the last 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations as the Super Eagles beat Guinea 1-0 in Alexandria, Egypt Wednesday.
Three-time winners Nigeria scored the only goal in the 73rd minute when Moses Simon’s right-wing corner was headed in at the near post by Kenneth Omeruo.
Nigeria now have six points from their two games after a 1-0 win over Burundi in their first match on Saturday and have topped the group going into Sunday’s final group clash with Madagascar. Only a win for the India. ocean island can tumble Nigeria from the top spot.
The top two nations in each of the six groups advance, along with the four best third-placed countries
Nigeria dropped captain John Mikel Obi, who played for Middlesbrough in 2018-19, but their side did include Brighton defender Leon Balogun, Stoke midfielder Peter Etebo, Leicester midfielder Wilfried Ndidi and Arsenal forward Alex Iwobi.
The Gunners man had one of the best chances when it was goalless with a curled effort from just outside the penalty area, but Guinea goalkeeper Ibrahim Kone produced a spectacular one-handed save to push it over the bar.
Guinea’s side included Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita, who was making his first start for club or country since 1 May, when he picked up a groin injury in the Reds’ 3-0 loss to Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final.
However, Keita received some strong challenges and only lasted 71 minutes before he was substituted.
He was replaced just before a Nigeria corner and Guinea, who now have one point from their two matches, went behind instantly thanks to Omeruo’s header.
A below –par first half gave way to a lively second half, during which Odion Ighalo, who earned all the three points for Nigeria after coming on as a substitute against Burundi on Saturday, could have scored if the Guinean defenders had not checkmated Ahmed Musa’s pass from a swift counter-attack, and Alex Iwobi forced a smart one –handed save from Guinea’s goalkeeper Ibrahim Kone from a snap shot.
At the beginning, the Syli Nationale were more business-like, working three shots on target including one that rattled Daniel Akpeyi, before Moses Simon fired wide over the bar when he freed himself from the right.
Coach Gernot Rohr rested 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.