Nigeria began their group campaign in Africa’s 2018 World Cup qualifiers with a 2-1 victory away to Zambia on Sunday in Group B, as Egypt defeated Congo 2-1 in Brazzaville in Group E.
Nigeria’s goals came in the first half from two of the English Premier League’s rising stars.
Arsenal forward Alex Iwobi put the Super Eagles ahead in the 32nd minute.
Manchester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho added a second ten minutes later to put Gernot Rohr’s side 2-0 up.
In a fast-paced match with chances at both ends in Ndola, Nigeria captain John Mikel Obi almost gave his side a 3-0 lead in the second half, only to see his long-range volley tipped over the bar by Zambia goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene.
Zambia pushed for a reply and were rewarded in the 71st minute as and when Collins Mbesuma grabbed one back.
Despite much pressure from the home team, Nigeria held on to record an away win to go top of Group B – one of the toughest in World Cup qualifying.
The other two teams in Group B, Algeria and Cameroon, face each other in Blida later on Sunday night.
All four teams are previous African champions.
Also on Sunday, Egypt went top of Group E with a 2-1 victory away to Congo Brazzaville, following Ghana’s 0-0 draw at home to Uganda on Friday.
The hosts started brightly when France-based Ferbory Dore headed in the opening goal for Congo Brazzaville in the 24th minute.
A strong Egypt side fought back with Roma star Mohamed Salah equalising four minutes before the break to make it 1-1.
On 58 minutes, Salah turned goal-maker, setting up Al Ahly’s Abdallah El-Said who scored to make it 2-1 to Egypt.
Tunisia were scheduled to play Guinea in Group A in Monastir later on Sunday.
On Saturday, there were opening group wins for Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Senegal.
Only the five group winners will qualify for Russia 2018 from Africa.