Nigeria’s Super Eagles, with an impressive defensive record of conceding only once in five matches, are set to face South Africa in the Africa Cup of Nations semi-final on Wednesday in Bouake.
The encounter marks the 15th clash between the two nations at the full international level, with Nigeria winning seven of the previous 14 matches, two won by South Africa, and five ending in draws.
The Super Eagles enter the semi-final as clear favorites, owing to their solid defense led by on-field captain William Ekong, often described as impenetrable as the Berlin Wall.
The attacking prowess of Africa Player of the Year Victor Osimhen, supported by Ademola Lookman and Moses Simon, poses a significant threat to South Africa’s defense. Lookman, with three goals in the tournament, and Simon, with two assists, add unpredictability to the Nigerian attack, switching wings at will.
Goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali, playing his club football in South Africa, expressed confidence in stopping the Bafana Bafana’s efforts, emphasizing a sweet victory for the Super Eagles.
The defensive lineup, including Calvin Bassey, Semi Ajayi, Zaidu Sanusi, and Olaoluwa Aina, remains resolute, with Aina’s attack-minded approach adding further challenges for the opposition.
The Super Eagles ranked 42nd globally and 12th in Africa, entered the match unbeaten in 10 competitive games over the past 10 months.
Their goal is to secure a fourth Africa Cup of Nations title, while South Africa aims for a second triumph, following their win 28 years ago.
The historical context adds intrigue, with Nigeria’s absence during South Africa’s 1996 triumph due to political tensions.
The first encounter between the teams in 1992 saw Nigeria dominating with a 4-0 victory, but subsequent matches have showcased the competitive spirit between them.
In the upcoming semi-final, the Super Eagles aim to replicate past successes, including a 2-0 win in the 2000 AFCON semi-finals and a 2-1 victory four years ago in the quarter-finals.
On-field leader William Ekong and goal-scorer Samuel Chukwueze, both key figures in previous triumphs, are set to play pivotal roles in Bouake.
Nigeria seeks to add a fourth star to its crest, while South Africa eyes a chance for a second AFCON title after a 28-year gap.
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