Nigeria’s Super Eagles are on the cusp of qualifying for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, but there’s the little matter of getting past an impressive South African team who haven’t lost a game yet in the series and have been quite impressive under the tutelage of new coach Ephraim ‘Shakes’ Mashaba.
The Eagles haven’t exactly being at their best in the final phase of qualifying. Two wins, two losses and a draw has seen the Africa champions barely crawl their way back into contention with that vital away win in Pointe Noire.
Coach Stephen Keshi needs his wards to be at their best to get past South Africa and ensure the calculators do not come out as Congo can also play spoilers if they beat Sudan away in Khartoum.
History favors Nigeria in Wednesday’s game. The Eagles have beaten South Africa in Nigeria on all the occasions the two teams have met, the most recent being the 2-0 win in June 2008.Nigerians will hope the trend continues.
South Africa come into the game on a high having qualified already with a game to spare. The Bafana Bafana have an unassailable 11 points, four more than Nigeria, who can only hope for a second place finish at best.
Shakes Mashaba has been able to transform the team he inherited from Stuart Baxter into a cohesive unit which has picked some some valuable points on the road while playing some exquisite football.
Nigeria will have to be at her best to prevent South Africa from a 100 percent away win record. The Bafana Bafana have scored five goals on the road and haven’t conceded any . In fact, the only goal they let in was Ibrahim Salah’s goal in Durban last weekend.
The Eagles have been among the goals in the series, but it’s at the back where the problem lies. Four goals conceded at home in two matches doesn’t best describe how a reigning African champion should spar.
Coach Stephen Keshi knows his defence has to stand firm like the Rock of Gibraltar against a resurgent South African side who will be playing without any pressure whatsoever having picked up the ticket. That is potentially dangerous
Nigeria will be without midfielder Hope Akpan who dislocated his shoulder in the away game against Congo. Joseph Nathaniel of Sharks FC has been called up as his replacement
Defender Godfrey Oboabona will miss the clash due to accumulated yellow cards as Azubuike Egwuekwe looks to keep his place in central defence in the absence of the Caykur Rizespor man.
Crocked Kenneth Omerou, who missed the game against Congo trained with the rest of the squad on their return to Nigeria and will have a late fitness test.
South Africa are sweating over the fitness of Thulani Serero who scored against Sudan. The Ajax midfielder made the trip to Nigeria despite the knock he received against the Falcons of Jediane.
Lehlohonolo Majoro who missed the Sudan game trained with the squad and is also in the party to Uyo but KV Oostende’s Andile Jali has been ruled out of the game against the Super Eagles
Players to watch
The Guanzhou R&F forward has come full circle in a short period of time in his international career. Two goals in two matches-all from the bench has made the former Dolphins player a crowd favorite.
Built like a tank, Samuel has a first touch that bellies his physique and his pace and raw power makes it difficult for defenders to hold him down.
There have been calls among certain quarters to get him on from the start especially since the reliable Emmanuel Emenike has hit a dry patch of late.
The 24 year old Bournemouth FC player has been on of the stand out performers for South Africa in the 2015 Afcon qualifying series.
His well taken goal against Sudan showed glimpses of his potential and the Free State born player would want to take it a step further do more damage against Nigeria in Uyo.
Super Eagles defenders will need to be up on their toes as Rantie’s pace and trickery will surely cause them a lot of problems.
Group A standings after match day 5
1. South Africa W -3 L -0 D -2 GF 7 GA 1 GD +6 PTS 11
2. Nigeria W -2 L -2 D -1 GF 7 GA 5 GD +2 PTS 7
3. Congo W -2 L -2 D-1 GF 5 GA 6 GD -1 PTS 7
4. Sudan W -1 L-4 D-0 GF-3 GA 10 GD-7 PTS 3
Head to head
Nigeria and South Africa have met ten times at full international level since their first meeting in 1992 when South Africa were readmitted back into international football.
The Super Eagles won the first game 4-0 at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos.Two goals from Rashidi Yekini and two more from Samson Siasia and Richard Owubokiri gave Nigeria an emphatic victory.
The most recent game between the two sides was the goalless draw in Cape Town on 10 September.
Matches in full
10 October 1992: Nigeria 4 South Africa 0
16 January 1993: South Africa 0 Nigeria 0
10 February 2000 : Nigeria 2 South Africa 0
31 January 2004 : Nigeria 4 South Africa 0
17 November 2004 South Africa 2 Nigeria 1
1 June 2008 : Nigeria 2 South Africa 0
6 September 2008 : South Africa 0 Nigeria 1
14 August 2013 : South Africa 0 Nigeria 2
19 January 2014 : South Africa 1 Nigeria 3
10 September :2014 South Africa 0 Nigeria 0
What they said
“We are defending well but there are still some things we need to do, especially in the middle of the park where we are not picking opponents tight and that will cause us problems especially against a team like Nigeria which is very good in that area,” said Mashaba.
“Nigerians don’t want to lose against South Africa, that alone will make this match a tough one and we also have the assignment to break the hoodoo that we always lose when we play against them. We have to go out there positive and believe we will do well.”
South Africa coach Ephraim ‘Shakes’ Mashaba’
“South Africa is here now and they will want nothing more than defeating us here in our backyard…in front of our fans.
“I have heard people say that I have a special grudge towards South Africa….that I was supposed to coach their national team and will want to defeat them by all means to prove a point.
“In fact these stories shock me because I see this (game against South Africa) as any other game.
“I have utmost respect for the South African people. I also respect their national team and in fact our Mandela trophy is one of our most prized possessions. Their coach Shakes Mashaba is a good friend and whom I would question if he was not coming here to win. But he is and this is great for African Football.”
Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi
Bafana Bafana squad:
Darren Keet (KV Kortrijk), Siyabonga Mpontshane (Platinum Stars), Brilliant Khuzwayo (Kaizer Chiefs)Defenders:Anele Ngcongca (Racing Genk), Sibusiso Khumalo (SuperSport United), Eric Mathoho (Kaizer Chiefs), Rivaldo Coetzee (Ajax CT), Tefu Mashamaite (Kaizer Chiefs) Kwanda Mngonyama (Maritzburg United), Siyabonga Nhlapo (Wits), Luvolwethu Mpeta (Platinum Stars), Ntsikelelo Nyauza (Orlando Pirates)
Themba Zwane (Mamelodi Sundowns), Sibusiso Vilakazi (Wits), Oupa Manyisa (Orlando Pirates), Andile Jali (KV Oostende), Dean Furman (Doncaster Rovers), Mandla Masango (Kaizer Chiefs), Thulani Serero (Ajax Amsterdam), Reneilwe Letsholonyane (Kaizer Chiefs), Fagrie Lakay (Santos)
Tokelo Rantie (AFC Bournemouth), Bongani Ndulula (AmaZulu), Kermit Erasmus (Orlando Pirates), Lehlohonolo Majoro (Orlando Pirates)
Vincent Enyeama (Lille OSC, France); Austin Ejide (Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Israel); Chigozie Agbim (Gombe United, Nigeria)
Elderson Echiejile (Monaco FC, France); Juwon Oshaniwa (Ashdod FC, Israel); Efe Ambrose (Celtic FC, Scotland); Solomon Kwambe (Sunshine Stars, Nigeria); Godfrey Oboabona (Rizespor FC, Turkey); Kenneth Omeruo (Middlesbrough FC, England); Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves, Nigeria)
John Mikel Obi (Chelsea FC, England); Ogenyi Onazi (SS Lazio, Italy); Raheem Lawal (Eskisehirspor FC, Turkey); Omatsone Aluko (Hull City, England); Tony Edjomarigwe (Nasarawa United, Nigeria) Kingsley Sokari (Enyimba)
Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow, Russia); Emmanuel Emenike (Fenerbahce FC, Turkey); Gbolahan Salami (Warri Wolves, Nigeria); Osaguona Ighodaro (Enugu Rangers, Nigeria); Ikechukwu Uche (Villareal FC, Spain); Aaron Samuel (Guangzhou R&F, China); Sunday Emmanuel (SV Scholz Grodig, Austria); Babatunde Michael (Volyn Lutsk, Ukraine): Emem Eduok (Dolphins FC, Nigeria)
Culled from Supersports.com