Nigeria and Zambia played to a 1-1 draw in the Africa Cup of Nations on Friday. The result leaves both Group C countries with two points heading into their final group matches early next week, which means they both have a chance to advance.
Emmanuel Emenike opened the scoring for Nigeria in the 57th minute. The Super Eagles missed a golden opportunity in the first half when John Obi Mikel couldn't bury a penalty kick, and it came back to haunt them as Zambia earned the draw with a late penalty conversion by goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene.
When the sides next play on Tuesday, Nigeria will take on Ethiopia, and Zambia faces Burkina Faso. Let's analyze one area where each squad must improve in order to reach the knockout rounds.
Nigeria: Increase Attacking Pressure
Nigeria has netted two goals in as many matches. While that's been enough to earn two draws, the Super Eagles should be generating a lot more scoring chances given the amount of talent on their roster.
They have played down to their competition so far.
What should be Nigeria's main concern?
While the defense is taking a lot of heat for allowing late goals in both matches so far—the fourth minute of stoppage time in the opener and the 85th minute against Zambia–it wouldn't be a major issue if Nigeria had been more aggressive moving forward.
The Super Eagles' roster is riddled with players who should be able to put pressure on the opposing back line. Whether is one of the aforementioned players, Emenike and Mikel, or a talented young player like Victor Moses or Ogenyi Onazi, Nigeria needs somebody to jump-start the attack.
At this point, Nigeria can no longer afford to remain conservative. It must push the attacking pace and put some real pressure on Ethiopia in the group finale. It's a match the Super Eagles should win, but that doesn't always equal three points, as they've found out.
Zambia: Get Christopher Katongo More Involved
Katongo is Zambia's most experienced and productive striker. The 30-year-old captain has made 80 appearances for the national team and scored 19 goals. So his lack of involvement in the first two matches is quite surprising.
Which side has a better chance to advance?
He started both games, but was subbed in the second half each time after failing to make an impact. In order for the Zambia offense to be at its most effective, Katongo must play a major role. He certainly hasn't to this point.
Luckily, the Copper Bullets have been able to scratch out two points without him playing a significant role. His teammates should try to feed him the ball early and often against Burkina Faso in an attempt to get him going offensively.
Collins Mbesuma, who's helped picked up the slack, and Katongo would form a nice one-two punch if the captain can get back on track. But he's running out of time to do it. Zambia could be on its way home if he doesn't step up on Tuesday.