Understandably so, the first round of games have been slow in terms of goals but has not disappointed with regards to excitement and tension. The first few games are naturally slower and cagier because teams are just trying to feel each other out, not take too many risks and get some points if they can.
Even though it has been a slow start to the tournament for almost everybody else, Nigeria looked very good against a respectable side in Egypt. Mohamed Salah and Egypt had no answers for Nigeria and created almost nothing all game. Had it not been for poor finishing on the part of the Super Eagles, things could have gotten really ugly.
Going into the game, all the talk was about Salah and if he could help his team get it done, but for large portions of the game he was very quiet and part of that is a credit to Nigeria captain William Troost-Ekong and their backline but mostly because Salah himself wasn’t doing enough when he did get the ball.
An incredible strike from the edge of the box Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho just before halftime was ultimately the difference in the scoreline. Left-winger Moses Simon absolutely terrorized the right side of the Egypt defence, constantly beating his man and putting it in dangerous crosses into the box.
One of those crosses led to the only goal of the game. Nigeria looked dangerous from the opening exchanges of the game and although Egypt had more of the ball, the majority of that was in meaningless parts of the field. Nigeria had significantly more shots than their opponents and forced the Egyptian keeper into a lot of crucial saves.
Egypt were poor, and that’s putting it mildly. The Pharaohs had just one shot in the first 70 minutes of the game, they were slow, lacked urgency, and simply contributed nothing to a game that was highly anticipated by many coming into the tournament.
They will still likely qualify from their group, but that could be where their journey ends if they don’t start to get their act together.
Nigeria really flexed their muscles in their opening game and came out sharper and more up for it than any other team so far this tournament. They came out ready for blood, they were purposeful going forward and pressed in groups to retrieve the ball as soon as they lost it.
The intensity they showed in their opener is what some teams hope to reach in the latter stages, if Nigeria can continue like this they are surely the favorites to win it all.
By: Mohamed Salad / @SaladNFL
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / CAF