JOHANNESBURG – Ordinarily, a clash with Nigeria’s Super Eagles would have South Africa’s Bafana Bafana quaking in their boots. After all, the West Africans have generally got the better of their counterparts from the southernmost part of the continent.
And so it has been that a clash between the two was viewed as a foregone conclusion - success for Nigeria or at worst a share of the spoils.
All that changed when Stuart Baxter took over for a second chance in charge of Bafana Bafana, the Scottish coach marking his return to the helm of the country’s senior national team with a 2-0 victory in Uyo.
It was Bafana’s first-ever win over the Super Eagles in a competitive match and it set the ball rolling towards qualification for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals now under way in Egypt.
Tomorrow night at the Cairo International Stadium, the two rivals clash for the third time at the biennial continental showpiece in a quarter-final contest that is too close to call.
Granted, Nigeria have won both previous meetings - 2-0 in the semi-final of the millennial competition they co-hosted with Ghana and 4-0 in a group stage match at Tunisia 2004.
But Bafana are no longer scared of Nigeria, thanks largely to that convincing victory in Uyo in June. That the return leg at the FNB Stadium ended in a 1-1 stalemate will make Baxter’s men more confident.
They did, after all, beat hosts Egypt in front of their vociferous home crowd of 75000 to reach this stage and will therefore not be lacking in confidence.
The fact that Nigeria were beaten in the group stage by the tournament’s surprise package Madagascar will add to Bafana’s belief that they could reach the Afcon semi-final for the first time since that defeat by the Super Eagles in Lagos 19 years ago.
The great thing is that this Bafana side is not afraid of the Super Eagles.@Tshiliboy