The 35-year-old was impressed by the commanding victory secured by the Super Eagles in their opening match in Cameroon

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Former Nigeria goalkeeper Carl Ikeme believes Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho has the qualities to lead the Super Eagles to glory at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

Iheanacho partnered Union Berlin’s Taiwo Awoniyi upfront against Egypt on Wednesday, and he scored the only goal that fired the Super Eagles to a 1-0 win in their opening match in Garoua.

The three points capped a dominant performance from the three-time African champions and it shot them to the top of Group D.


When asked to pick a star player in Austin Eguavoen’s team, Ikeme told GOAL: “It is hard to look past Iheanacho, he is going to be the talisman going forward in the tournament, obviously you can see from his quality last night with the goal. He’s a stand-out player.

“I think if he does well in the tournament that Nigeria would do well too.”

The former Wolverhampton Wanderers shot-stopper applauded the team’s overall effort for the victory at Roumde Adjia Stadium and he rated Eguavoen’s selections.

“There was balance in the team, we looked solid at the back with Ndidi in the midfield. He really marshals the back and he controls the game well,” he continued.

“And we have Simon and Ihenancho going forward. We have got quality everywhere, we look strong, with some people calling us favourites already, but there are a couple of matches to go.

“Simon is very quick and strong for the game so far, we look strong.”

Ikeme who made 10 appearances for the Super Eagles before his retirement in 2018, feels it will be tough for the West Africans to challenge for a fourth Afcon title.

“I think it’s going to be difficult because there is a lot and lot of quality at Afcon,” he said. “I’m glad it is beginning to shine a brighter light because there are some really good players and some really good teams in the competition.

“Cameroon will be a really different team to beat, also being the host. Senegal are a really good team, Egypt will also be a difficult team to beat going forward in the tournament.”

Next up for Nigeria in Group D, is an encounter against Sudan on Saturday before they face Guinea-Bissau on January 19.

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