CHAN 2014- Nigeria v South Africa

“Since 1992, Bafana Bafana have only managed to beat Nigeria once in eight matches. The green shirts of the Super Eagles have been like kryptonite for Bafana, with many South African teams being swept aside in qualifiers and friendly matches alike.

“As recently as August, Nigeria showed that the hoodoo is alive and well when the African champions outplayed and beat Bafana 2-0 in Durban. It was a performance that underlined how far behind the giants of Africa Bafana find themselves,” wrote John Goliath in South Africa’s Independent Newspaper.

That aptly captures Nigeria’s dominance over South Africa in a football rivalry that is now 21 years old.

However, Sunday’s clash gives Bafana Bafana a chance to get a win against their bogey team. Can they grab only their second win against Nigeria?

Head-to-head in all competitions

The first and only time Nigeria’s Super Eagles have lost to the Bafana Bafana in internationals was in November 2004. South Africa edged their rivals 2-1 to win the Nelson Mandela Challenge that year.

In 1992, Nigeria thumped South Africa 4-0 in Lagos on their return to international football after years of being banned owing to the political situation back then in the country. It was their first head-to-head meeting.

The most recent head-to-head meeting between the two sides was in August 2013 for the Nelson Mandela Challenge at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban. Again Nigeria proved too much for South Africa by winning two-nil through Uche Nwofor’s brace of goals.

Their history at Chan

In spite of Nigeria’s dominance over South Africa, this is their first appearance at the African Nations Championship (Chan).

In the qualifiers for the 2009 Chan, Ghana’s Black Stars stopped the Super Eagles with a 3-2 aggregate win over two legs.

It was Niger Republic that stunned Nigeria in the 2011 Chan qualification. The Nigeriens won the first leg two-nil on March 13, 2010 and secured their passage two weeks later to the tournament after a goalless outing in Nigeria.

On the other hand, South Africa are making their second appearance at the tournament after their first in 2011.

Bafana Bafana won their group at the 2011 Chan in Sudan. They won all three games against Ghana, Niger Republic and Zimbabwe. But Algeria ended their run in the quarterfinals inside the Khartoum stadium.

Key players

South Africa have Kaizer Chiefs trio of Bernard Parker, Itumeleng Khune and Siphiwe Tshabalala in their squad. Other experienced stars in Gordon Igesund’s team are Thabo Nthethe, Lerato Chabangu and Katlego Mashego among others.

Nigeria head coach, Stephen Keshi, has had to bank on Ejike Uzoenyi, Rabiu Ali, Solomon Kwambe, Azubuike Egwuekwe and Ifeanyi Ede to shepherd his squad.

The game

Igesund and Keshi are surely going to field their strongest men for this decisive contest. South Africa just need a draw to secure their place in the knockout stage after garnering four points from their opening two games.

But it is Nigeria who have their work cut out. The Super Eagles will have to win by any margin to reach the quarterfinals after picking three points from their previous two matches.

Injuries ahead of the clash

Nigeria’s major injury concern is central midfielder, Ikenna Hillary Paul. He has been ruled out of the tournament with a torn hamstring. The duo of Benjamin Francis and Ugonna Uzochukwu who suffered knocks in the games against Mali and Mozambique respectively are back in the squad after training on Friday.

Igesund’s plan for Sunday suffered a major hit as his captain and goalkeeper, Khune, is now doubtful and faces a late fitness test on Saturday after an ankle injury against Mali. Bafana Bafana coach will be looking at Bidvest Wits custodian, Moeneed Josephs to deputise in the absence of Khune though the South African first-choice has not been totally ruled out.

What the coaches are saying

Keshi said in a post-match conference after guiding his men to a 4-2 over Mozambique that “South Africa have massive advantage” going into Sunday’s match.

“Who are we playing next? No, seriously, this is a different tournament and you can’t compare this Nigeria side with last year. South Africa have massive advantage in terms of experience, the fact their league only stopped in December and their players are still in condition. They have what it takes. We’ll need a high level of concentration to overcome South Africa,” said Keshi.

Igesund has declared that he holds no fear for the Super Eagles. He made it clear that he will set up his team to attack in Sunday’s game despite knowing they need a draw to reach the quarterfinals.

“Why should I be scared of Nigeria? We’re not scared of anybody. We’ve just beaten Spain, I should be scared of Nigeria?

“My philosophy has always been play to win. When you start thinking about trying to play for a draw, you start doing the wrong things.

“I won’t compromise my principles. My principles have always been, go out there and try win a match. If the other team scores three, you must score four.

“It’s been my philosophy for many years and it has worked for me. There’s certainly no way I’m going to go out there play defensively.

“We know that Nigeria are going into this game with only one thing on their mind, and that’s to win the game. We will be offensive against them, that’s the plan, we want to go forward.

“I want to attack them down the sides, have overlapping fullbacks and let’s ask the questions, we need to ask a lot of questions defensively and we’ll try and do that,” said Igesund

Probable line-ups

South Africa XI: Itumeleng Khune; Thato Mokeke, Vuyo Mere, Thabo Nthethe, Buhle Mkhwanazi, Hlompho Kekana, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Matthew Pattison, Lindokuhle Mbatha, Katlego Mashego, Bernard Parker

Nigeria XI: Chigozie Agbim; Solomon Kwambe, Azubuike Egwuekwe, Kunle Odunlami, Benjamin Francis, Ugonna Uzochukwu, Rabiu Ali, Abdullahi Shehu, Ifeanyi Ede, Gbolahan Salami

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