The Super Eagles started their 2023 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) campaign in Ivory Coast on a poor note after playing a 1-1 draw against tournament underdogs Equatorial Guinea in their first match in Group A at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium.
Equatorial Guinea took a surprise lead in the 36th minute when Iban Salvadorn slotted in a sublime assist from Jose Machin.
But Nigeria mounted pressure almost immediately and Napoli and 2023 CAF Footballer of the Year Victor Osimhen headed in the superb cross from Ademola Lookman to equalise two minutes later for the three-time African champions and tournament favourites.
The Super Eagles were wasteful as they missed several scoring chances in the first half and were eventually punished by the Elephants
Salvador’s classy first-half finish was his side’s only attempt on target and briefly threatened a significant upset in the second game of the tournament.
Despite the introduction of Joe Aribo, Samuel Chukwieze, and Paul Onuachu in the closing stages, Nigeria failed to find a winner.
For Equatorial Guinea, their reputation as a force to be reckoned with at AFCON remains. Though appearing at the competition for just the fourth time in their history this month, they finished fourth in 2015 and reached the quarter-finals on both other occasions, stunning defending champions Algeria last time around.
A hard-fought opening draw against one of the tournament favourites is a positive result before they take on minnows Guinea-Bissau on Wednesday.
The result means Nigeria are joint second in Group A standing and will have to be in their best form when they take on host nation Ivory Coast on Thursday.
Ivory Coast sit top in Group A after recording a 2-0 win over a 2-0 victory over Guinea-Bissau at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium on Saturday night.