AFCON 2023: Super Eagles favourites to condemn ‘Boys’ to third place match – Report

 With their defence having been breached only once after five matches in this tournament, and considering their vast superiority in the record of previous encounters, Nigeria’s Super Eagles have the favourite tag going into Wednesday’s Africa Cup of Nations semi-final against South Africa in Bouake.

Wednesday’s game will be the 15th clash between both countries at full international level. Nigeria have won seven of the previous 14 matches, with five of those matches drawn and two won by South Africa.

Apart from having to deal with the incredible energy, effervescence and pace of Africa Player of the Year Victor Osimhen, another major problem that the Bafana Bafana will be up against early, in-game and at the latter stages is the intractability of wing-terrors Ademola Lookman and Moses Simon.

Lookman, with three goals in the tournament so far (all coming in the knockout rounds), plus assisting Osimhen to score the equalizer against Equatorial Guinea, and Simon (with two assists) can be fleeting and entirely unpredictable for any defence, with both switching wings at will.

A stingy rearguard, marshalled by on-field captain William Ekong, has been able to provide all the answers to a number of tricky questions by the opposition in their last four matches, and looks as solid as the Berlin Wall at the height of its glory.

Goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali, who plays his club football in South Africa, and who was thrown into the forefront as number one at this competition despite only one previous cap, said he would have a sweet day stopping all efforts by the Bafana Bafana and then seeing them shunted to the third-place match.

“I know them and they know me. It will be an interesting evening in Bouake.”

Calvin Bassey, Semi Ajayi, Zaidu Sanusi and Olaoluwa Aina are the other pegs in that rearguard, and the attack-minded Aina offers even more problems for the 1996 champions.  

Ranked 42nd in the world and 12th in Africa (as against South Africa’s global ranking of 66th and 12th in the Africa), the Super Eagles are unbeaten in 10 competitive matches over the past 10 months, and even achieved a rare win in a friendly game when they edged Mozambique in Portugal in October 2023.

As far as the Africa Cup of Nations go, Nigeria is aiming for a fourth star on its crest, while the Bafana (Boys) are only aiming for a second triumph, following their win on home soil 28 years ago. Even that win has always been downplayed by Nigerians as it happened in the absence of Cup holders Nigeria, who were stopped from travelling to the Rainbow Nation by military strongman Sani Abacha following a spat with President Nelson Mandela over the execution of environmental rights activist Ken Saro Wiwa and some others in November 


The first meeting between both countries was on 10th October 1992, when Richard Owubokiri opened the floodgates of goals in a 4-0 win for Nigeria at the National Stadium, Lagos. Rashidi Yekini scored a brace. It was a 1994 FIFA World Cup qualifying match. The return leg at the FBN Stadium in Johannesburg ended scoreless.


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