A place in the World Cup is no guarantee for success in Africa.
Nigeria, which failed to qualify for this summer's tournament in Germany, outplayed Ghana 1-0 on Monday on a late strike by Taye Taiwo to begin its Group D campaign at the African Cup of Nations.
Senegal joined Nigeria on three points by beating Zimbabwe 2-0, in the other group game in Port Said. Wigan striker Henri Camara scored in the 60th minute and then set up Issa Ba's goal 10 minutes from time. Ba scored with his first touch after coming on as a substitute.
A sensation at the 2002 World Cup, Senegal did not qualify this time.
Ghana became the third of five African World Cup qualifiers to lose its opening match at the African championship.
Qualifying for this year's World Cup produced some surprises, with four of the five African qualifiers earning their debuts at soccer's premier event.
On the other hand, such traditional African powerhouses as Cameroon, Nigeria and South Africa failed to advance and are looking for redemption at their continent's championship.
So far, only the defending African champion Tunisia has looked convincing, beating Zambia 4-1. Ivory Coast struggled to a lackluster 1-0 win over Morocco.
Togo was soundly beaten 2-0 by Congo and Cameroon rolled past Angola 3-1 over the weekend.
In Monday's game in Port Said, Marseille defender Taiwo drilled a free kick from 35m that ricocheted as the Ghana defense scattered without making a wall and leaving goalkeeper Samei Adjei flatfooted.
Ghana's Matthew Amoah struck the post and missed with a second-half header from three meters, but Nigeria dominated the match.
"I have great respect for Ghana ... but what is important now is that we're in the driving seat," Nigeria's coach Austin Eguavoen said.
"It is a strong group and we have to concentrate on the next two games," Eguavoen said.
Nigeria played without injured Bolton midfielder Jay Jay Okocha. Ghana came into the tournament missing injured Michael Essien of Chelsea -- an absence coach Ratomir Dujkovic said could cost the team its chances of winning a record fifth title.
"We have to win our next two matches against Senegal and Zimbabwe, it's that simple," Dujkovic said.
"Nigeria is a very strong team. Just because we reached the World Cup does not mean we were supposed to win this match," he said.
Captain Stephen Appiah produced most of Ghana's counterattack chances, and he came close to landing a solo effort in first-half injury time.
"We lost concentration in this match ... but we have to continue as if nothing has happened," Appiah said.
"We're missing key players, but we can't lay down. We'll do what we can to beat Senegal and Zimbabwe," he said.
So far, none of the eight games have ended in a goalless stalemate.