The Super Eagles will begin their quest for a fourth title in the Africa Cup of Nations with a match with Burundi at the Alexandria Stadium on June 22. It will be the first match of the two sides since the Super Eagles beat Itamba of Burundi 2-0 at the MKO Abiola Stadium on 23 January 1999.
The solitary encounter of both teams was a qualifying duel for the 2000 championship, which Nigeria later co-hosted with Ghana thus nullifying the encounter and making the return leg unnecessary.
The Burundi team is in the competition as debutants. Since Africa Cup of Nations’ matches are played as double headers at the group stage, Guinea will immediately after the Nigeria-Burundi clash, take on Madagascar, the second debutant of the tournament.
Nigeria’s crunch game will be against Guinea on June 26. Previous clashes of both teams are almost even. Both had met 14 times and each won four and drew six.
This will be the second Africa Cup of Nations’ clash of the two teams since they met at Ethiopia ’76. The score line then was 1-1 following Muda Lawal’s goal in the 52nd minute and Papa Camara’s equaliser at the dot of 90 minutes.
Both teams have however met on other instances outside the Africa Cup of Nations’ tournaments.
Significantly, it was Guinea that Nigeria eliminated to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in 1963. Nigeria forced a 2-2 draw in Lagos in the qualifying match but lost the return leg 1-0.
The match was however awarded to Nigeria on technical ground as Guinean referees officiated the return leg.
It was also Guinea that Nigeria defeated to win first continental honours, the gold medal of the football event of the 2nd All Africa Games in Lagos in 1973.
Both Nigeria and Guinea maintained rivalries in the 1963 with the introduction of the Tafawa Balewa Cup, a trophy donated for bilateral competition by the first Nigerian Prime Minister.
In the first leg of the only edition of the competition, Guinea beat Nigeria 3-0 in Conakry while the return leg ended 1-1 in Lagos.
Both teams had also met in World Cup qualifiers, playing 1-1 in Conakry and Henry Nwosu snatching a 90th minute winner in the return leg in Lagos in 1981.
Nigeria similarly beat Guinea over tow legs in the quest for France ’98 World Cup. Guinea however denied Nigeria qualification for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nation after beating Nigeria 1-0 in Conakry and forcing a 2-2 draw in Abuja.Nigeria last group match of Afcon 2019 will be against debutants, Madagascar. It is scheduled for June 30 at the Alexandria Stadium at the same time Burundi will be facing Guinea in Cairo.