Nigeria has never lost a competitive match to South Africa at senior level, and the Super Eagles are confident that record will not only be sustained, but a convincing win by Nigeria awaits in Saturday’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo.
On Monday, 21 of the 24 invited players, alongside technical crew and backroom staff, arrived at their familiar Le Meridien Hotel and Golf Resort, Uyo ambience, and training sessions began in earnest on Tuesday ahead of the big encounter.
The South African Football Association has confirmed that the Bafana Bafana delegation will fly into Lagos on Wednesday and then immediately connect a flight to Uyo, as both teams looked forward to a pulsating game on the turf of the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium.
Although the Bafana Bafana have never beaten the Super Eagles in a competitive game, Nigerians would remember that a 2-2 draw at the same venue between both teams in November 2014 meant the Eagles missed the cut for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations finals.
Tokelo Rantie scored both goals, before left –sided midfielder Sone Aluko also replied with a brace – something that is a usual occurrence in matches between both nations.
Before Rantie and Aluko, Rashidi Yekini (of blessed memory), pacy wingers Tijani Babangida and Osaze Odemwingie and forwards Uche Nwofor and Ejike Uzoenyi had bagged braces in matches between both nations at senior level.
Midfielder Ogenyi Onazi, who will lead out the Super Eagles on Saturday in the absence of recuperating captain Mikel John Obi, told thenff.com on Tuesday: “It is a big game, and we are one for the big occasion.
“I have confidence in the group that we have now and the ambition oozing in the camp. We want to go to the World Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations. Starting well on Saturday will be key to our aspiration.”
Winger Ahmed Musa, who netted a brace in a 3-0 defeat of Togo in a friendly in Paris on Thursday, alongside defender Kenneth Omeruo and newly –wed wing back Elderson Echiejile were the only squad members given until Tuesday to arrive camp.
Nigeria’s army on Saturday will include former junior international Kelechi Iheanacho, who has scored in seven of his last eight matches for the Super Eagles, as well as record scorer in the FIFA U17 World Cup, Victor Osimhen. There are also this season’s top scorer in the Austrian Bundesliga, Olanrewaju Kayode, the pacy Moses Simon and the nimble –footed Alex Iwobi.
The last outing between both teams was a friendly match at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit two years ago, which ended 1-1. Ahmed Musa scored a late goal in a game in which Daniel Akpeyi (likely to start in goal for Nigeria on Saturday) saved a penalty, but there was still time for the Bafana Bafana to draw level.
Eagles for Battle
NIGERIA & SOUTH AFRICA AT SENIOR LEVEL
10 Oct 1992: Nigeria 4 South Africa 0 – Lagos (World Cup Qualifier)
16 Jan 1993: South Africa 0 Nigeria 0 – Jo’burg (World Cup Qualifier)
10 Feb 2000: Nigeria 2 South Africa 0 – Lagos (Afcon semi final)
31 Jan 2004: South Africa 0 Nigeria 4 – Monastir (Afcon group stage)
17 Nov 2004: South Africa 2 Nigeria 1 – Jo’burg (Mandela Challenge)
1 June 2008: Nigeria 2 South Africa 0 – Abuja (World Cup Qualifier)
6 Sep 2008: South Africa 0 Nigeria 1 – Port Elizabeth (World Cup Qual.)
11 Aug 2013: South Africa 0 Nigeria 2 – Durban (Mandela Challenge)
19 Jan 2014: South Africa 1 Nigeria 3 – Cape Town (CHAN group stage)
10 Sept 2014: South Africa 0 Nigeria 0 – Cape Town (Afcon Qualifier)
19 Nov 2014: Nigeria 2 South Africa 2 – Uyo (Afcon Qualifier)
29 Mar 2015: South Africa 1 Nigeria 1 – Nelspruit (Friendly)