Nigeria takes on Burundi in their AFCON opener on Saturday 22 June 2019 and our soccer pundit makes his predictions.
Nigeria will certainly be looking to get their 2019 AFCON campaign off to a winning start when they go up against Burundi in Alexandria. With memories of the failure to qualify for the last edition still fresh in the minds of their supporters, nothing short of an opening day win will ease the nerves of the Super Eagles’ fans. Burundi, however, won’t roll over for their more fancied opponents and will believe that they can get out of one of the tournament’s more forgiving groups.
Nigeria vs Burundi
Saturday 22 June
The Super Eagles are always a threat heading into AFCON tournaments, and it’s no different with this crop of players who look the real deal. The team will be captained by pivot John Mikel Obi whose role in turning defence to attack will likely prove key.
If the Nigerians can deal with the limited attacking threat posed by the Burundians and set the likes of Alex Iwobi and Ahmed Musa away in the transition, they should be able to get the job done against a Burundi defence who have virtually no European experience – with the exception of Chirstophe Nduwarugira who plays for Amora FC in Portugal’s third division.
For me, though, the key man will be Wilfred Ndidi. The Stoke City midfielder is cast from the same mold as N’Golo Kante and Idrissa Gueye. His all-action style will be key in disrupting whatever rhythm the Burundi midfield can find. He will also look to break forward with the ball at his feet if given the opportunity, and can look to do so confidently with Mikel shielding his back four.
You can see Burundi being overawed at their first ever AFCON appearance. The Swallows certainly benefitted from being in one of the easier qualification groups which consisted of Mali (who went on the top the group) and Gabon and South Sudan.
Running through the squad, nothing really jumps out at you except Sadio Berahino whose career has fallen off of a cliff since joining Stoke City. The centre-forward enjoyed his best period in the Premier League for West Brom. Since joining Stoke, however, he’s only managed three goals in 51 appearances.
South African fans will be familiar with Frederic Nsabiyuma who plays either at the heart of the defence or as a holding midfielder for Chippa United in the PSL. He’ll certainly have his hands full trying to deal with the threat posed by Nigeria’s forwards.
Verdict: Nigeria (-1) Handicap (21/20)
You simply can’t see any other result except for a Nigerian win here. They’re lightyears ahead of Burundi in almost every department and should cruise to victory without much fuss. I’ll certainly be backing them to get the job done by two goals or more. For a bit more value, you can take Both Teams to Score (No) and Over 2.5 Goals at 34/10.
Written by @TheJasonDewey