AFCON 2019: Nigeria v South Africa Preview

Bafana Bafana striker Lebo Mothiba

A rivalrous collision of football titans takes centre stage on Wednesday night as the Super Eagles of Nigeria and Bafana Bafana cross swords. The mutual antipathy was further fuelled by the fact that these sides faced each other in the AFCON qualifiers with Stuart Baxter’s men collecting maximum points away from home and the return leg ending with a share of the spoils. Here’s how I think the upcoming clash will unfold.

AFCON 2019 
Wednesday 10 July
Cairo International Stadium
21:00


To Win

Nigeria 1/1
Draw 2/1
South Africa 33/10
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South Africa 

Bafana Bafana produced a delightful performance against the hosts, Egypt who were tipped as tournament favourites last week. Eliminating the Pharaohs in Cairo should embolden Bafana Bafana to aim for the stars in this competition. Thembinkosi Lorch did not disappoint the fans who have been calling for his inclusion as he crowned his AFCON debut with a goal. His combination with Percy Tau and Lebo Mothiba makes for an enterprising three-pronged attack.

The midfield trinity of Bongani Zungu, Dean Furman and Kamohelo Mokotjo was so formidable the last time out and they will be looking to repeat the same performances. It will be interesting to see how they fare against Wilfred Ndidi and company. The whole football fraternity is also raving about Sifiso Hlanti’s heroics against Mohamed Salah in the previous stage and this time he comes up against Ahmed Musa who said he wants to win the AFCON for the late Stephen “Big Boss” Keshi who was at the helm when they last triumphed.

Themba Zwane’s return from suspension will be a source of a healthy headache for Baxter. It will be interesting to see which approach the coach opts for as attacking football is not in his DNA and when he finally implemented it, the desired results were achieved. What I don’t understand is Baxter’s lack of making early substitutions in favour of soldiering on with lethargic legs for the better part of the game.

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Nigeria

This is a great side with world-famous superstars like Alex Iwobi, Ahmed Musa, Wilfred Ndidi and Odion Ighalo. Speaking of Ighalo, he’s one of the leading goal scorers, having found the back of the net on three occasions. Thulani Hlatshwayo and Buhle Mkhwanazi should keep a close eye on him as he chips in with a few assists as well.

To reach this stage, they had to overturn a 2-1 scoreline against the defending champions Cameroon to win 3-2. The star-studded team is not truly devoid of weaknesses though as goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi is suspect and is known for committing blunders. That’s a frailty Bafana Bafana will be looking to exploit, and PSL-based players are surely aware of that.

Probable line ups:
Nigeria: 4-3-3
Akpeyi; Awaziem, Kong, Amruo, Aina; Ndidi, Etebo, Simon; Iwobi, Ighalo, Musa


South Africa: 4-3-3
Williams; Mkhize, Hlanti, Hlatshwayo, Mkhwanazi; Furman, Mokotjo, Zungu; Lorch, Mothiba, Tau


Prediction: South Africa 33/10
It’s the hosts eliminators against the defending champions eliminators! In fact, both these teams knocked out the last edition's finalists. Most Nigerians are experienced in big leagues around the world and it’s an absolute contrast for South Africans, but we have seen teams with international superstars bite the dust and I think that will be the case here. I foresee Bafana’s quick attackers firing them to victory.

Written by @EggsBenedictZA


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