Can Bafana’s Khuliso Mudau lock up Nigeria’s Ademola Lookman?

Bafana right back Khuliso Mudau won’t have to contend with Nigeria’s injured striker Victor Osimhen (centre) tomorrow, but will have his hands full in defence. Photo: BackpagePix

Bafana right back Khuliso Mudau won’t have to contend with Nigeria’s injured striker Victor Osimhen (centre) tomorrow, but will have his hands full in defence. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Jun 6, 2024


Bafana Bafana’s balance and resolve will once again face one of the most difficult challenges around the continent when they line up against Nigeria in tomorrow’s Fifa World Cup qualifier.

Although the midfield battle usually decides the momentum and results of football matches, this encounter is different as many believe Bafana’s only chance of causing an upset lies in their ability to shut down a star-studded Super Eagles attacking unit.

The two teams will meet at Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo, south-eastern Nigeria (9pm kick-off, SA time) with hopes of boosting their ambitions to secure their passage to the grand spectacle taking place in the US, Mexico and Canada in 2026.

Nigeria head coach Finidi George has had to contend with the loss of star striker Victor Osimhen due to injury, but will have full confidence in his red-hot striking unit.

In Osimhen’s absence, Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho is expected to take up the No 9 role in the side, given his predatory expertise in the opponents’ box.

While he hasn’t had the best individual campaign, with only five goals to his name, the 27-year-old contributed to his club Leicester regaining promotion to the top flight of English football.

If George opts for form rather than experience, then Bayer Leverkusen’s Victor Boniface will be his go-to man as the leading striker.

The 23-year-old is bouncing after winning both the Bundesliga title and the German Cup, and will be eager to impress in Nigerian colours, having racked up 21 goals and 10 assists for Leverkusen. He has been a handful for defenders all over Europe.

AC Milan’s Samuel Chukwueze is also a notable name, but Atalanta’s Ademola Lookman is the name on everyone’s lips at the moment, after his heroic showing in the Europa League final against Leverkusen two weeks ago.

The 26-year-old attacker scored three times as Atalanta claimed their first European trophy, a performance he will take great confidence in as he gears up to feature for the Super Eagles.

The man expected to be tasked with dealing with Lookman is Mamelodi Sundowns’ Khuliso Mudau, who despite injury concerns is said to be available for selection by Bafana coach Hugo Broos.

The two men have already collided this year at the Africa Cup of Nations.

And while Lookman’s Nigeria advanced on the day, Mudau also earned his respect as he shut down the lively winger.

Bafana’s central defensive unit may be disrupted by the unavailability of Sundowns man Grant Kekana, who pulled out due to injury.

Mudau will have to partner any one of Siyabonga Ngezana, Mothobi Mvala, Nkosinathi Sibisi and late arrival Given Msimango.

Even though a switch of formation from Broos’ standard 4-3-3 to 5-3-2 could be on the cards (as done at the Afcon), midfield guardians Teboho Mokoena and Sphephelo Sithole are expected to play a huge defensive role.

The duo have already proved their capabilities as a pair at the Afcon, and will be eager to build on those competent displays in the most hostile of conditions in Nigeria.