Tuesday, July 16, 2024

AFCON: Nigeria vs. South Africa PREVIEW: Eagles, Bafana renew rivalry in Bouake – Premium Times


Super Eagles Squad [PHOTO: X @NGSuperEagles via https://twitter.com/NGSuperEagles/status/1754618214556828080/photo/1]
The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2023) hots up on Wednesday as two footballing rivals, Nigeria and South Africa, clash in an eagerly anticipated semi-final showdown at the Stade de la Paix in Bouake.
Both teams began the tournament shakily but have steadily improved, with both recording clean sheets in their last four matches.
This encounter marks their 15th meeting at the senior international level, with Nigeria holding the edge with seven wins, five draws, and just two losses.
The Super Eagles aim to extend their dominance, while Bafana Bafana seek to write a new chapter. South Africa’s last AFCON semi-final appearance was in 2000, and it ended with a 2-0 defeat to Nigeria.
Can Bafana Bafana write an alternative history by reaching their first final in 24 years?
Nigeria currently sits 42nd in the FIFA rankings (sixth in Africa), while South Africa occupies the 66th spot (12th in Africa).
The Super Eagles boast a rich AFCON history, having reached the semi-finals 16 times, though they have only progressed once in the last six attempts, when they won the tournament in 2013.
South Africa, meanwhile, are in their fourth semi-final, aiming to end a 20-year final drought.
The odds are definitely against South Africa, but with the 2023 AFCON playing out as a tournament for the underdogs, an upset is very much on the cards.
10-10-1992: Nigeria 4-0 South Africa (1994 World Cup Qualifier)
16-01-1993: South Africa 0-0 Nigeria (1994 World Cup Qualifier)
10-02-2000: Nigeria 2-0 South Africa (AFCON)
31-01-2004: Nigeria 4-0 South Africa (AFCON)
17-11-2004: South Africa 2-1 Nigeria (Friendly)
01-06-2008: Nigeria 2-0 South Africa (2010 World Cup Qualifier)
06-09-2008: South Africa 0-1 Nigeria (2010 FIFA World Cup Qualifier)
14-08-2013: South Africa 0-2 Nigeria (Friendly)

10-09-2014: South Africa 0-0 Nigeria (2015 AFCON Qualifier)
19-11-2014: Nigeria 2-2 South Africa (2015 AFCON Qualifier)
29-03-2015: South Africa 1-1 Nigeria (Friendly)
10-06-2017: Nigeria 0-2 South Africa (2019 AFCON qualifier)
17-11-2018: South Africa 1-1 Nigeria (2019 AFCON qualifier)
10-07-2019: Nigeria 2-1 South Africa (2019 AFCON)
“Myself and my teammates are ready for this challenge. The focus is solely on the South Africa game and getting the job done. It’s a massive match with so much at stake, including qualification for the 2023 AFCON final.” – Ola Aina Nigeria defender
“For many, Nigeria are the favourite to win, but it’s not always the case in football. We are confident and motivated to try and ensure it doesn’t happen and South Africa will play in the final for the first time in 20 years.” – Hugo Broos, South Africa coach
Victor Osimhen’s recent abdominal discomfort has cleared, with the striker declared fit for action as he returned to training on Tuesday.
His potential absence could have opened doors for Terem Moffi or Kelechi Iheanacho, but Jose Peseiro will probably stick with his preferred 3-4-3 formation.
Both teams have players at risk of suspension for the final, adding another layer of tension to the encounter.

The Super Eagles are in a dicey situation as the trio of Moses Simon, Ola Aina, and Calvin Bassey must avoid being booked so they don’t miss out on a final.
At the risk of missing out for South Africa are Aubrey Modiba, Grant Kekana, and Mothobi Mvala, who all were booked during the fiery game against Morocco in the round of 16.
Like the Super Eagles, Broos’s men have not conceded since their tournament opener against Namibia, and the AFCON 2017-winning manager will stick with the defenders that have kept opponents out in four consecutive games.
Nigeria’s possible starting lineup: Nwabali; Ajayi, Troost-Ekong, Bassey; Aina, Onyeka, Iwobi, Sanusi; Simon, Lookman; Osimhen
South Africa’s possible starting lineup: Williams; Mudau, Kekana, Mvala, Modiba; Mokoena, Sithole; Morena, Zwane, Tau; Makgopa
This promises to be a close and exciting encounter. Although Nigeria has a slight advantage on paper, we should not underestimate South Africa’s hunger for redemption and their solid defensive record.
Predicting a winner is tricky, but a narrow 1-0 victory for the Super Eagles seems likely.
Kick-off is at 5:00 p.m. local time (6:00 p.m. Nigerian time).

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Tunde Eludini is a graduate of the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, Nigeria where he studied International Relations. He is a Senior Correspondent coordinating the sports section for PREMIUM TIMES. Twitter@tundeyeludini

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