The Africa Cup of Nations opened with a whimper rather than a bang on Saturday, as the two matches didn't so much as feature a goal. Thankfully that changed on Sunday, and Monday's slate offers two intriguing matchups when Zambia faces Ethiopia and Nigeria takes on Burkina Faso.
Group C promises to be one of the most competitive draws in this tournament, as both Zambia and Nigeria are considered two of the tournament's favorites, Burkina Faso is a dark horse to advance out of the group and make some noise, and Ethiopia is out to prove it belongs after qualifying for the tournament for the first time in 31 years.
There are story lines aplenty here, folks, and two games on tap that should be very competitive. Let's take a closer look at Monday's Group C play.
|Zambia vs. Ethiopia||Monday, Jan. 21||10 a.m. ET||ESPN3|
|Nigeria vs. Burkina Faso||Monday, Jan. 21||1 p.m. ET||ESPN3|
Zambia vs. Ethiopia
Zambia will be looking to defend its 2012 Africa Cup of Nations title when it faces Ethiopia, a side that many were surprised to see even qualify for the tournament. That's because, while Zambia is 34th in FIFA's world rankings, Ethiopia is ranked No. 110.
Zambia ended Egypt's run of terror, as the Egyptian side had won three consecutive African Cup of Nations titles. Meanwhile, Ethiopia last won the tournament in 1962 and hasn't so much as qualified for the tournament in 31 years.
The Ethiopians will hope to play solid defense and bog down the Zambians, looking for a draw or perhaps even sneaking out a win if star striker Saladin Said can provide a bit of magic.
Zambia has its own star forward, however, as the BBC's 2012 African Footballer of the Year and Zambian captain, Christopher Katongo, is sure to cause plenty of problems for Ethiopia. Meanwhile, centre-back Stoppila Sunzu and goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene will bolster the defense, and clever midfielder Rainford Kalaba will look to control the game for Zambia.
Expect Ethiopia to play valiantly, but Zambia's superior talent to win out in the end.
Prediction: Zambia wins, 1-0.
Nigeria vs. Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso is more talented than you might expect and will be led by forwards Moumouni Dagano and Alain Traore in an effort to at least open group play with a draw. Still, Burkina Faso has a rather large monkey on its back, as the side is without a win in its last 17 African Cup of Nations matches.
Removing that monkey will be no easy task against Nigeria, a team laden with talented players like Chelsea pair John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses alongside veteran defender Joseph Yobo and solid striker Ikechukwu Uche.
On paper, Nigeria would look to be the clear favorite. But don't underestimate Burkina Faso—this is a team fully capable of surprising folks.
Prediction: Draw, 2-2.