By Akinwale Kasali
This will be the third time in the history of Africa Cup of Nations championship that the Super Eagles of Nigeria will be facing the Bafana Bafana of South Africa. Interestingly, the Super Eagles have won the two previous encounters at AFCON 2000 and 2004.
The first time both teams met at the continental showpiece was at the AFCON 2000 co-hosted by Nigeria and Ghana. It was at the Semi-finals with Nigeria coming out victorious at 2-0.
Again, both teams were pitched together in the same group alongside Morocco and Benin Republic.
Nigeria defeated South Africa 4-0 to qualify from the group alongside Morocco, with both South Africa and Benin Republic crashing out.
The Super Eagles and Bafana Bafana have met 13 times with South Africa winning twice.
Their first victory against Nigeria was at the Nelson Mandela Cup International friendly match at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Johannesburg. The match ended 2-1.
The first and only competitive victory of South Africa against Nigeria was two years ago at the Uyo International Stadium in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria, during the qualifiers for the ongoing 2019 AFCON tournament.
Against all odds, the Bafana Bafana lads humbled Nigeria 2-0 to register a famous victory against their West African foe.
Their first competitive triumph against Nigeria should have come during the 2015 AFCON qualifiers at the same Uyo International Stadium, but the South African Coach, Shakes Mashaba, failed to write his name in the history book, as his team succumbed to a 2-0 lead, with match ending 2-2.
Though, the result saw Nigeria’s absence at the AFCON 2015 tournament, and to also defend the title it won two years ago in 2013.
On July 10th, 2019, at the Cairo International Stadium, Egypt, both teams will rekindle their rivalry, as Nigeria will want to keep the momentum to continue its dominance against the Southern African country.
No doubt, the odds favour Nigeria, but the resilience and extraordinary performance of the Bafana Bafana lads against host, Egypt, is of concern to numerous fans, soccer enthusisats, analysts and bookmakers, as to predict the outcome of the encounter.
The performance of the Super Eagles against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon is another factor that will make the battle between both nations fierce.
Since AFCON 2000, Nigeria has been consistent in getting to the semi finals of the African showpiece. Though, at the 2008 AFCON tournament, Nigeria was booted out in the quarter final by host, Ghana, since then it has never failed in reaching the last four.
Super Eagles failed to qualify for AFCON 2015 and 2017, but coach Gernot Rohr is optimistic of going into the finals of the competition.
He has however promised to use his best legs against the South Africans.
South Africa has won the AFCON tournament once when it hosted it in 1996.
Nigeria failed to participate at the competition, having won the tournament two years earlier in Tunisia, but failed to defend it’s title due to political uprising in Nigeria then under the tyrannical regime of military rule led by Late General Sani Abacha.
Both teams will set the Cairo International Stadium in Egypt agog tomorrow when the square up against each other in fierce contest.