Nigeria have become the first side to advance to the knockout stages of the Africa Cup of Nations after beating Guinea 1-0 in Alexandria.
As with their opening Group B win over Burundi, the Super Eagles left it late to make a breakthrough against stubborn opponents. It was centre-back Kenneth Omeruo who got the winner, heading home Moses Simon’s corner after 73 minutes.
Liverpool’s Naby Keïta started his first match since suffering an adductor injury in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final. The midfielder could not help Guinea find the lead, and was taken off after 70 minutes having received several knocks.
Despite the narrow scoreline, Nigeria were much improved from their opening game. The coach, Gernot Rohr, made five changes, bringing Simon and Ahmed Musa in on the flanks. Levante’s Simon found Alex Iwobi with an inviting square pass after two minutes, but the Arsenal forward hesitated and the chance was lost.
Musa then gave notice of the threat he might pose with a surging run and delivery that Odion Ighalo failed to control in front of goal. Simon then shot from a tight angle with Ighalo in space on the half-hour mark.
After the break, Iwobi’s shot forced a save from Guinea goalkeeper Ibrahim Koné, who replaced Aly Keita in goal after their opening draw with debutants Madagascar. Koné could do nothing to stop Omeruo’s winner, as the serial Chelsea loanee headed Nigeria into the last 16.
In Group A, Uganda boosted their chances of reaching the last 16, but were grateful for two glaring misses from Knowledge Musona as they drew 1-1 with Zimbabwe.
Uganda, who surprised DR Congo in their first game, took a 12th-minute lead through Emmanuel Okwi before Khama Billiat levelled for Zimbabwe five minutes before the break.
Musona should have equalised before that but fired over from close range, and the forward was guilty of an even worse miss in the second half, hitting the crossbar from six yards out with the goal gaping.
Uganda face the hosts, Egypt, in their final group game but the four points they have already earned may well be enough for the Cranes to qualify from their group for the first time since 1978.