Time for Bafana Bafana to swoop on Nigeria’s Super Eagles

Lyle Foster, seen here during training this week, will hope to make a big impact tonight for Bafana against Nigeria after missing the Africa Cup of Nations. Photo: BackpagePix

Lyle Foster, seen here during training this week, will hope to make a big impact tonight for Bafana against Nigeria after missing the Africa Cup of Nations. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Jun 7, 2024


Hugo Broos will lead his fearless Bafana Bafana warriors to war against the Super Eagles in the enemy’s territory, the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo tonight (9pm kick-off).

The South Africans will look horns with Nigeria in their third qualifier for the 2026 Fifa World Cup in the US, Canada and Mexico.

This clash will also serve as a curtain-raiser for their fourth qualifier at home against Zimbabwe at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein next Tuesday (6pm).

So, having blown hot and cold in the past two qualifiers, beating Benin before losing to Rwanda, Bafana need to get their qualifying campaign back on track in this window.

Coach Broos knows this all too well and he’s targeted at least four points from the two matches, while suggesting that six would be a bonus.

The visit to Uyo would have made Bafana tremble in the past. They are still regarded as underdogs as they are ranked 10th on the continent, while Nigeria are third.

— Bafana Bafana (@BafanaBafana) June 6, 2024

And that’s not all. Bafana boast only four overseas-based players in their final squad, compared to Nigeria, who have a strong European contingent.

However, such was the bravery of Broos’ players during the Africa Cup of Nations in January that they’ve already given the star-studded Nigerian outfit something to think about.

Bafana took the Super Eagles to penalties in the Afcon semi-final, losing narrowly in the shoot-out after holding their own during regulation and extra time.

So, Bafana will enter the Godswill Akpabio Stadium tonight eager to build on that match, the 2-0 win over Morocco in the group stage and 2-2 draw with Algeria in the Fifa Series pilot project in March.

“The advantage that we have now compared to five months ago is that we proved when we played against those bigger teams in Africa that we can win,” Broos said.

“We won against Morocco (the highest-ranked team in Africa). And if you had asked before the game whether they wanted to bet on the victory (no one would have bet on SA).

“You could see how we played against Morocco and now against Algeria (who are ranked third), we are not afraid any more because we know the qualities that we have.

“On Friday, we’ll go onto the pitch and play our game. We won’t be scared of any team. We’ll just play our own game.”

A lot has changed since Bafana and Nigeria met in Ivory Coast, though, and there’s been a change in the Super Eagles’ coaching department.

The national team’s legend Finidi George, who was an assistant at Afcon, has ascended to the head coach post in recent months, replacing his former boss Jose Peseiro.

George has already overseen two matches, albeit as an interim coach before his full-time appointment, guiding the Super Eagles to a win over Ghana and loss to Mali in March.

Broos used the two friendly games to study his counterpart for tonight, and suggested what he may need to do to knock him off his perch.

“The something that has changed with the new coach of Nigeria – he’s playing a little bit differently,” Broos admitted.

“We surprised them a little bit at Afcon and played with three defenders, so we’ll try on Friday to surprise them again. Let’s hope that we have more luck than in Afcon, and we win.

“But for me the most important thing is how my team will play, and then it’s up to the opponent to also make decisions.

“At Afcon, they didn’t know what to do. They were really surprised we played like that. So, can we do that for the second time? We’ll see.”

George will also want to spring a surprise on Broos when he sets up his team, as he’ll be without his main striker Victor Osimhen for his first competitive match tonight.

The Napoli striker withdrew from the final squad due to an injury late last month.

Osimhen’s absence, though, does not only affect George’s approach, but Broos’ as well. But the Bafana coach argued that he analyses his team’s strengths first before those of the opponents.

“For me what’s always important is who my team is. That’s my starting point – which team will I put on the pitch, and what I think will help us get the results against the opponent,” Broos explained.

“And then we start looking at how the opponent (plays and what their approach is).”