JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, January 16 – The Nigerian Super Eagles sharpened their claws by walloping Portuguese club Farense 5-0 with three days to go before the Africa Cup of Nations kicks off.
Spain-based Uche Ikechukwu scored a hat-trick and Emmanuel Emenike and John Obi Mikel one each as a side that is among the favourites for the tournament in South Africa completed a four-match warm-up schedule.
It could have been a much wider victory margin as Nosa Igiehor was foiled three times and Chelsea midfielder Obi twice by the woodwork with Nigeria dominating the second half after leading 1-0 at half-time.
The country that has finished among the top three in all but three of 16 appearances drew 1-1 in Spain with Catalonia before a goalless stalemate with Cape Verde and a 1-0 win over Sparta Rotterdam in Portugal.
Nigeria are in Group C at the Africa Cup with defending champions Zambia and rank outsiders Burkina Faso and Ethiopia and it would be calamitous for the vast west African nation if they failed to make the knockout stages.
The form of Ikechukwu was particularly encouraging for coach Stephen Keshi as the Villareal goal poacher is set to team up with Emenike as the first-choice strike force.
Burkina Faso are the first opponents of twice champions Nigeria on January 21 at Mbombela Stadium in north-eastern city Nelspruit near the world famous Kruger National Park, followed by Zambia and Ethiopia.
The Burkinabe Stallions, who have gone 17 Africa Cup matches without a win since 1998, continued a low-key build-up by defeating Swaziland league leaders Mbabane Swallows 3-1 in Nelspruit.
Aristide Bance, Mohammed Koffi and Wilfried Dah were on target for Burkina Faso, who are guided by Belgium-born former Gambia coach Paul Put and skippered by veteran striker Moumouni Dagano.
A couple of other country-versus-club clashes between Morocco and Bidvest Wits in Johannesburg and Niger and Platinum Stars in Indian Ocean city Port Elizabeth ended goalless with the Africa Cup sides experimenting.
Morocco are considered potential qualifiers from Group A, which includes South Africa, Angola and Cape Verde, while Niger are outsiders in Group B against Ghana, Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The injury concerns of Ghana continued with teenage striker Richmond Boakye-Yiadom limping out of a training session in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates city were the Black Stare are preparing.
Boakye-Viadom joined defender Isaac Vorsah and midfielder Anthony Annan on the sidelines while midfielders Albert Adomah and Mohammed Rabiu got the green light to resume training.
Soccer City stadium in Soweto hosts the opening Cup of Nations double-header Saturday with South Africa facing debutants Cape Verde Islanda at 1600GMT followed three hours later by Angola against Morocco.