Another instalment of Nigeria vs South Africa is upon us as both countries clash once again in Africa’s flagship football event – the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). This year, it is at the semi-final stage, meaning that a priceless incentive of a final appearance is being dangled before both sets of players.
Both teams have overcome their unconvincing starts to this tournament to arrive at the penultimate stage. Nigeria were held 1-1 by Equatorial Guinea in a game characterised by missed chances by the Super Eagles while South Africa were spanked 2-0 by the Les Aigles of Mali.
Interestingly, both teams have not conceded any further goals in the competition since those opening games. This Nigeria vs South Africa then promises to be an intriguing one as Previewed below by ACLSports Chief Football Writer Fisayo Dairo.
WE’VE GOT HISTORY
Wednesday’s meeting will be the fourth between both sides in AFCON history. Nigeria have won the previous three (two of them in knockout games) in 90 minutes. The most notable among them have to be both teams’ semi-final duel in Lagos in 2000, a game Nigeria won 2-0.
That game was the last time the South Africans played in the semi-final of the Africa Cup of Nations and so will be hoping to avenge that defeat on Wednesday. Finidi George provided the assist for Nigeria’s second goal on that day and he is an assistant coach to Nigeria’s Jose Peseiro while Helman Mkhalele who also started for South Africa is now the assistant to Hugo Broos of South Africa.
The last meeting with both sides was in 2019 when Nigeria defeated South Africa 2-1 at the quarter final stage in a game decided at the Cairo International Stadium. Both of Nigeria’s goalscorers that day Samuel Chukwueze and William Troost-Ekong are in the current squad while South African goalkeeper Ronwen Williams was in goal on that day.
Only Williams, Percy Tau and Themba Zwane are the survivors from that set of Bafana Bafana as against Nigeria who have at least ten of that set in Côte d’Ivoire.
This is Nigeria’s sixteenth (16th) appearance in the AFCON semi-final – a joint record with Egypt – while South Africa are appearing in the final four for the third time.
Nigeria face South Africa tomorrow in the #AfCON2023 semis. It’s the SA’s first appearance since they were soundly beaten by Nigeria in 2000. There are some similarities from the team then and now as I pointed out here 👇🏾 ACLSportsAtAFCON pic.twitter.com/ATouIOcTEo— Fisayo Dairo (@FisayoDairo) February 6, 2024
FRESH OR UNFRESH
Nigeria are the fresher of the two teams on paper going into this Nigeria vs South Africa contest. The Super Eagles are the only team left in the competition not to have required 120 minutes throughout the competition while journeying to this stage.
They face a team that exerted 120 minutes of energy and needed penalties to see off Cape Verde, twenty-four hours after their own progress against Angola.
Statistically though, Nigeria have only used twenty of their registered players in this competition – a number which includes Chidozie Awaziem who has only featured for two minutes and substitute goalkeeper Francis Uzoho who had about thirteen minutes against Cameroon.
This stat thus means that inside the freshness of the Nigerians lie certain traits of exhaustion as was noticed during the game against Angola. Nigeria’s quartet of Ahmed Musa, Kelechi Iheanacho, Terem Moffi and Bruno Onyemaechi are yet to kick a ball in this tournament whereas only Oswin Appollis and Nkosinathi Sibisi are yet to taste action for South Africa.
Jose Peseiro got a timely boost on Tuesday as star forward Victor Osimhen recovered on time from a tummy bout to take part in his team’s last training session. He is expected to start for Nigeria vs South Africa.
Nigeria’s left wing back Zaidu Sanusi however remains a doubt after he sat out the training session on Tuesday evening in Bouake. The FC Porto star has been playing through the injury barrier since the start of the competition and his absence may mean a rare start for Bright Osayi-Samuel on the right with Ola Aina switching to the left seeing that Peseiro has no trust in Bruno Onyemaechi.
For South Africa, Mamelodi Sundowns forward Thapelo Maseko will not be available for selection in this game. The 20-year old came off injured during extra time of the game against Cape Verde and has been ruled out due to a hamstring injury.
WHAT THEY SAY
Nigeria head coach Jose Peseiro
“Our team has done a good job by getting to this stage of the competition. We’ve shown enough in terms of good spirit and good organisation and sacrifice.
“We’ve played like a team together and we have a match against a good team and we want to beat South Africa to reach the final because it is our goal.”
South Africa head coach Hugo Broos:
“We are very happy and motivated that we are playing in the semi-final of AFCON. For many people, it was unexpected but we did it and that means that South Africa became a good team.
“It’s more than twenty years ago that South Africa last played in the semi-final and more than that for the final so that means we have another motivation to play in the final on Sunday.
“We play against a very good team, the Number 6 in FIFA Rankings for Africa and so that means a lot to our players. It’s a little bit the same situation that we faced against Morocco (in the round of 16), teams playing with big players in Europe. For many people, Nigeria are the favourites but like we know in football, it’s not always the favourites that win.”
Match 49: Nigeria vs South Africa
Venue: Stade de la Paix, Bouaké
Time: 5pm local time (6pm WAT)
Referee: Amin Omar (Egypt)