Ordinarily, a game between Nigeria and South Africa would not give the average supporter of the Super Eagles sleepless nights because of the antecedents of the teams. But things have changed so much that even the South Africans, who hitherto feared to enter the same pitch with Nigerians are now dreaming of beating the Eagles in Uyo.
South Africa lead Group A with 10 points, while Nigeria are second on seven points. Before last Saturday’s round of games, Nigeria was on four points and in third position behind second-placed Congo with qualification for Equatorial Guinea 2015 a distant prospect for the defending champions. But a heroic 2-0 defeat of Congo in Pointe Noire has restored Nigerians’ belief in the ability of their team to defeat any country in Africa.
The reigning African champions are tied with Congo on seven points, but are second in the pool courtesy of their superior goal difference.
Three points today against Bafana Bafana will qualify the Eagles for the Nations Cup in place of Congo, who face Sudan in other group match.
Coming into today’s game, Shakes Mashaba’s South Africa have only conceded one goal in five matches and they believe their new found form would see them through against the Eagles no matter how determined the Nigerians are.
Speaking on the game, some of the South African players said they are here to keep their unbeaten run in memory of their slain captain, Senzo Meyiwa, who was shot dead by robbers last month.
New skipper of the side, Dean Furman, told reporters on Monday that his side has resolved to win the game for Meyiwa, whose ambition was to lead the Bafana Bafana to Equatorial Guinea.
“We are here as group leaders and we want to keep it that way. We know that Nigeria is one of the toughest teams in Africa, a team that has beaten us several times, but we are not intimidated by past records. All we want is a good atmosphere to advertise South African football,”
Super Eagles’ Coach, Stephen Keshi, has been battling with injuries to his defenders and may have to change things against South Africa.
Against Congo, he brought in Azubuike Egwuekwe to replace the injured Kenneth Omeruo in the central defence and now he has been dealt another blow by the absence of Godfrey Oboaboba through suspension.
There are indications tat he would draft right back, Efe Ambrose, to the central defence to pair with Egwukwe, meaning he has to find somebody to play at right back if Omeruo did not recover for the game.
Speaking to the players yesterday, Nigeria Football Federation President, Amaju Pinnick, reminded them that the battle is not yet over until the final whistle today.
He said: “Pointe Noire was a bright point for us, no doubt. We went there with a strong mind to turn the campaign around and we did just that. But there are still 90 minutes to go in the qualifying race and it is critical that we maintain focus.
“The wise guys tell you that it is when a guy gets too confident that he is wide open for a sucker punch. I am a strong optimist and I know that we are as good as being in the Draw for the final tournament. But we must keep a level head for those 90 minutes, maintain focus and clinically take our chances.” – Guardian.