The Super Eagles of Nigeria have soared into the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) semi-finals for an unprecedented 15th time, aiming to clinch their fourth continental title. While their recent semi-final record has been mixed, with five defeats in their last six appearances, their triumph in 2013 against South Africa provides a glimmer of hope for the Nigerian faithful.
Facing them are South Africa, a team they’ve struggled against in recent encounters, failing to secure a win in their last six meetings (W1, D4, L1). However, buoyed by their current form, which includes four consecutive clean sheets, the Super Eagles are primed for a formidable challenge against Bafana Bafana.
The journey to the semi-finals has been arduous for both teams. The Super Eagles face a substantial journey from their quarter-final venue in Abidjan to Bouaké, where the match will take place. Conversely, South Africa’s path was shorter but fraught with tension, as they overcame Cape Verde in a grueling penalty shootout, with goalkeeper Ronwen Williams emerging as the hero.
Williams’ penalty-saving heroics propelled South Africa to their first semi-finals appearance in 24 years, evoking memories of their defeat to Nigeria in 1997. However, both teams boast defensive solidity, hinting at a tight and cautious encounter.
Key players for the Super Eagles include William Troost-Ekong, who has already found the net in this AFCON and scored against South Africa in their previous encounter in 2019. Meanwhile, South Africa’s Teboho Mokoena poses a late threat, with four of his five goals coming as decisive strikes.
However, the Super Eagles’ star striker Victor Osimhen’s profligate finishing raises concerns despite his talismanic status. Manager Peseiro is expected to deploy him alongside Ademola Lookman and Moses Simon in a potent attacking trio.
The Super Eagles face potential suspensions for Simon, Ola Aina, or Calvin Bassey in the final if any of them receive bookings in the semi-final clash. Similarly, South Africa risks losing key players like Aubrey Modiba, Grant Kekana, or Mothobi Mvala due to yellow card accumulation.
Both teams boast resilient defenses, with neither conceding since their tournament openers. South Africa’s manager, Broos, is unlikely to alter the defensive setup that has served them well throughout the tournament.
Defenders: Ajayi, Troost-Ekong, Bassey
Midfielders: Aina, Onyeka, Iwobi, Sanusi
Forwards: Simon, Lookman
Defenders: Mudau, Kekana, Mvala, Modiba
Midfielders: Mokoena, Sithole
Wingers: Morena, Zwane
As the Nigeria and South Africa vie for a spot in the final, expect a fiercely contested battle between two footballing powerhouses determined to claim AFCON glory.