Nigeria vs. Burkina Faso: Most Impressive Performers from Intense Opening Match

Austin GreenCorrespondent IJanuary 21, 2013

Photo courtesy of The Guardian
Photo courtesy of The Guardian

Nigeria and Burkina Faso gave fans a treat in their opening match of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, as the two sides battled to a 1-1 draw that featured more action than the scoreline suggests.

After Nigeria dominated the first half, Burkina Faso made a spirited comeback. They put together several quality attacks after break, and they capitalized after Nigeria's Efe Ambrose was sent off in the 74th minute.

With Nigeria down to 10 men, the Stallions were able to equalize in the 94th minute.

It was an excellent match that featured strong performances from several players. The following three stood out most.


Brown Ideye, Forward, Nigeria

Even though he couldn't lead Nigeria to the win, Ideye was solid throughout the match.

He was very active, using his speed and aggression to create multiple chances. He almost earned a penalty in the opening minutes, and he had a great opportunity to score shortly after, but he blasted his shot over the crossbar.

Ideye made up for his mishap though, feeding Emmanuel Emenike with a clever flick in the 23rd minute. Emenike poked in the goal, and Nigeria took the early advantage.


John Obi Mikel, Midfielder, Nigeria

Mikel was Nigeria's top player on Monday, using his speed, vision and creativity in the midfield to set up his teammates.

His name won't show up on the score sheet, but it was Mikel who hit Ideye with a gorgeous long ball to set up Emenike's goal. Mikel also should have had an assist late in the match, but Ikechukwu Uche was unable to convert his chance.

The Chelsea man showed he was the most talented man on the pitch, and if he delivers a similar performance on Friday, Nigeria should earn three points against Zambia.

Alain Traore, Midfielder, Burkina Faso

Traore is having a strong year in French Ligue 1, and his success carried over to the international stage.

Traore provided the heroics on Monday, finishing the Stallions' late attack. After Burkina Faso flashed some impressive team passing, Traore stepped up and fired in the winning goal in the fourth minute of injury time.

It was a clutch goal that allowed the Stallions to escape with a point. If they are able to advance past the group stage, Traore will deserve much of the credit.