The last time the two teams met, both teams played out a highly entertaining 2-2 draw in a must win 2015 AFCON Qualifier at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo, a game which ensured the Super Eagles missing out of the 2015 AFCON in Equatorial Guinea with the South Africans progressing alongside Congo from the group.
Bafana Bafana striker, Tokelo Rantie scored a brace on that night before Sone Aluko got his own double to deny the visitors their first competitive win against the host. Nigeria likewise misses out on the 2017 AFCON in Gabon with Chad pulling out of the qualifiers which meant only one team could qualify out of the group. Egypt picked up the sole ticket of the group having drawn with the Super Eagles in Kaduna and then a 1-0 home win in Egypt which ensures the Super Eagles missing out on two consecutive Afcon finals.
There were lots of experienced players in the team, many veterans including 2013 AFCON top scorer Emenike, Ighalo, Ideye, Enyeama, but the Super Eagles had lost their fear factor, with countries like Sudan and Congo inspired by Biofuma indeed defeated Nigeria, with the latter achieving the feat in Kaduna.
In 2016, Tanzania fancied their chances against the Super Eagles and they got a 0-0 draw at home (a game which they could have won Carl ikeme’s outstanding performance in goal). It was Sunday Oliseh’s first game in charge during his short stint as the coach of the national team.
When Gernot Rohr was employed, the Super Eagles were already out of the race to qualify and the game against Tanzania in Uyo was a mere formality which the team still fought hard to win thanks to Iheanacho long-range stunner in a 1-0 win. Since the lost to Egypt, the team has not tasted defeat and confidence is gradually returning to the team and opponents are waking up to the fact that the current Super Eagles team are now a force to reckon with.
South Africans also missed out Gabon 2017 and therefore will be looking to achieve a shocking result in Uyo in order to boost their chances of qualification. They haven’t won against Nigeria since 2004 but they can smell blood after two consecutive draws in their last two meetings. Most of their players play for Caf Champions League winners, Mamelodi Sundowns, PSL Champions Bidwest Wits, local powerhouses Orlando Pirates, Kaziers Chief and they could prove a hard nut to crack especially with their recent success on the African scene.
Two-goal hero in the last meeting, Tokelo Rantie is still in the team, many cannot forget easily how he turned Omeruo in and out last time the two met, Ithumele Khune is still formidable in goal, Dean Furman is also a decent maestro in the midfield and with the absence of Obi Mikel, he could prove to be a potential trouble for Onazi and Ndidi, which shows that they are not short of firepower.
The Bafana Bafana are unbeaten in their last five games as well, winning two drawing three and with a draw against the Eagles on Saturday, they would fancy taking 12 points off the other teams in the group which are Seychelles and Libya, both are minnows on paper but shouldn’t be taken with kids gloves. Both teams clash on Friday and either of the two sides would want a win with hopes of a draw between Nigeria and South Africa.
Nigeria lead its 2018 World Cup qualifying group with 4 points above second-placed Cameroon, arguably the group of death, the Eagles have won 2 out of 2 to show quality and readiness, defeating Zambia in Ndola and Algeria at the Nest of champions despite the young and new faces with little experience on the international scene brought into the team, they face Cameroon in a double header later in August and September.
The importance of this tie cannot be underestimated, not only is it a must win for both sides in order to set a tone for qualifying for 2019 AFCON, it is also a crucial test for the home team before the clash against Cameroon, to give a clue into what to expect from the Indomitable Lions when they come visiting.
Gernot Rohr hasn’t lost since taking charge of the Super Eagles team, Morales are high amongst the players with a seemingly renewed self-confidence instilled in the current young and talented crop of players in the squad, therefore should the team fail to get at least a point from the game tomorrow, it may have damaging effects on the team spirit.
Playing the African champions is never an easy task but losing your preceding game after a period of “invisibility” would make it more of a herculean task. Getting six or at least four points from the double-header against Cameroon would put the Nigerians in pole position to qualify for the group anything less than that would return the group to balance based on other results between Algeria and Zambia.
Therefore, from a particular perspective, the result from this match could have effects on the subsequent world cup qualifier matches and indeed AFCON 2019 qualifiers, so the Super Eagles must take it with all seriousness and focus on winning.
Although many of the experienced players from the game in November 2014 are not in the team this time around, the likes of Sone Aluko, Vincent Enyeama, Emmanuel Emenike and a host of others but the precocious talents like Iheanacho who has 7 goals in his just about 10 appearances for the National team, Iwobi and experienced duo of Ogenyi Onazi, Ahmed Musa, and Omeruo who were both presents in the last match between the two sides can get the job done on Saturday evening.