Fireworks as Eagles, South Africa tango one more time
The last time both countries met in a competitive game, they shared the spoils, but that draw came after the South Africans had dented Nigeria’s image in Uyo en route this championship.
Today, the stake is higher. The winner will qualify for the semifinal of the on-going African Cup of Nations, while the loser will go home. Immediately.
And so, both teams have been preparing for a game that means so much to the image of their countries, and perhaps, much more to the Nigerian coach, Gernot Rohr.
The Franco-German has been the subject of debate whether he should continue on the job or be told to go. This debate came up again after Nigeria’s shock 0-2 defeat by Madagascar.
A Super Eagles’ loss will certainly mean the end of Rohr’s sojourn in Nigeria, but his players say that cannot happen.
In fact the Super Eagles are looking forward to ending the tie in the first half.
At Eagles training session on arrival in Cairo from Alexandria on Monday, the players’ emphasis was more on goal scoring.
“We want to get the job done early against the South Africans on Wednesday (today), one of the players told The Guardian after their evening training on Monday. The game is slated for 9.00 p.m. (8.00 p.m. Nigerian time) at the Cairo Stadium today.
The confidence, tactical discipline, savvy and ambition that South Africa showed in their defeat of Egypt was evident for the world to see, but the world also saw the competence, capacity, unyielding spirit and masterliness that the Super Eagles exhibited in ejecting the defending champions from the tournament.
South Africa has never beaten Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations finals, with their two previous meetings – a semifinal clash in 2000 in Lagos and group phase encounter in 2004 in Monastir – ending 2-0 and 4-0 respectively in favour of the Super Eagles.
When South Africa won their only title (in 1996 on home ground), Nigeria were absent as a result of a boycott ordered by military despot Sani Abacha. The withdrawal led to a CAF suspension that accounted for another absence in 1998, where South Africa reached the final, losing to Egypt.
Nigeria has never ended an Africa Cup of Nations finals empty–handed where they eliminated the defending champions.
Looking forward to an interesting game, veteran coach, Godfrey Esu warned the Super Eagles to be fully prepared for today’s game against Bafana Bafana.
“The South Africans have proven beyond doubt that they are a force to be reckoned with in African football at the moment. Anybody facing them must be fully prepared,” Esu said in a telephone interview with The Guardian yesterday.