FLASHBACK: Nigeria Vs South Africa over the years

Mazino Dickson

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Traditionally, matches involving both countries cannot be described as an African football classico.

It does not rank on the level of Nigeria-Cameroun; Nigeria-Ghana, Ivory Coast-Ghana, Algeria-Morocco, and Egypt-Tunisia encounters.

This is because of the huge distance between both countries in terms of pedigree at this level.

The Super Eagles first encountered the South Africans in the USA 94 World Cup qualifiers in October 1992 in Lagos, with a Rashidi Yekini brace giving the Nigerians an easy 4-0 win.

The return match in Johannesburg ended goalless.

But with South Africa hosting and winning its first and only AFCON title on home soil in 1996 – with then defending champions Nigeria withdrawing from the tournament for political reasons – a rivalry was born.

With South Africa emerging as a political and economic rival to Nigeria, both nations have taken this rivalry on the pitch to another level.

The South Africans bragged about their 1996 winning charm; a claim Nigerian fans laughed off as academic.

Since then, both teams have net each other twice at this level, with the Green-White-Green boys coming out tops.

In 2000, a brace from winger Tijani Babangida in front of 60,000 fans at the National stadium Lagos gave the Super Eagles a solid 2-0 win over the Bafana Bafana, who were making only their third appearance at Africa’s football showpiece.

The Super Eagles hardly broke a sweat in Tunisia 2004 as yet another brace from the-debutant Osaze Odewingie left the fading South Africans reeling from a 4-0 spanking.

Have things changed?

Years ago, a Nigeria-South Africa encounter would have seen bookmakers walk away tiiping a clear win for the former.

But in recent years, it would appear the gap between both nations has closed significantly.

Nigeria has failed to beat South Africa in their last four competitive matches.

In fact, the nippy footballers from the Cape have given Nigerians a dose of their own medicine by eliminating the West Africans from qualifying for the 2015 AFCON in Equatorial Guinea and most painfully stunned the Nigerians 2-0 in Uyo during the qualifiers for the current AFCON tourney.

Although Nigeria went on to play a 1-1 draw in the return leg in Johannesburg and finish as group winners, the pain of that defeat has refused to go away.

AFCON 2019 – How have they fared?

Nigeria finished runners-up to Madagascar in the group stage; even suffering the dishonour of being thrashed 2-0 by the Islanders. They redeemed themselves by knocking out champions Cameroun 3-2 in the second round – despite going behind at a point.

It was also a poor showing for the rainbow nation in the group stage as they lost 1-0 to both group winners Morocco and Ivory Coast; they managed a 1-0 win over neighbours Namibia to sneak into the second round as the last best losers.

But the South Africans then stunned the football world by beating hosts and favourites Egypt 1-0 to set up a dream clash with Nigeria.

What to expect

Coach Gernot Rohr is expected to bring his years of experience from his locker to guarantee victory for Nigeria. Odion Ighalo, Ahmed Musa and Alex Iwobi are expected to start.

Goal Keeper Daniel Akpeyi faces his sternest test because as a South-African based player, there are fears