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AFCON 2023 Match Preview: Nigeria Vs South Africa

As anticipation builds for the semi-finals of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) begin, Voice of Nigeria takes a look at Wednesday’s heavyweight clash between fierce rivals Nigeria and South Africa, by 6:00pm (WAT), at the Stade de la Paix in Bouake, Cote d’Ivoire.

The heated rivalry between the two sides will be renewed in Cote d’Ivoire as Nigeria seeks its fourth title, while South Africa looks ahead to what has been an elusive second. The Super Eagles face old-time foes Bafana Bafana in the first semifinal in what will be a repeat of the 2000 semifinal that saw Nigeria defeat South Africa 2-0 in Lagos.

Following the 2000 semifinal defeat, the Super Eagles edged Bafana Bafana in the quarterfinals in the 2019 edition in Egypt with a narrow 2-1 win. The history between these two football powerhouses adds an extra layer of anticipation, as Africa is set for yet another thrilling match, with a lot at stake for both nations.

The Super Eagles of Nigeria will face off against Bafana Bafana of South Africa in the semi-finals of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, at the Stade de la Paix in Bouake, Cote d’Ivoire.

Nigeria are hunting a fourth African crown as they look to add to their titles from 1980, 1994 and 2013. The Super Eagles reached the semi-finals after after securing a 1-0 victory against the Black Antelopes of Angola in the quarter-finals of the AFCON.

Super Eagles of Nigeria.

Three-time African champions, Nigeria, will be making its record-equaling 16th semi-final appearance in their 20th Arica Cup of Nations tournament. They will also be seeking to reach another AFCON final to what would be a clash of rivals at the Stade de la Paix.

Super Eagles head coach José Peseiro has sights set firmly on Sunday’s showpiece in Abidjan as he plots to mastermind another famous Super Eagles triumph, saying his side are fully focused on reaching the AFCON final as they prepare to face South Africa.

Peseiro has been impressed with Nigeria’s “great spirit and commitment” during their run to the last four. But he insists their journey will only be a success if they now go all the way and lift the trophy.

Super Eagles of Nigeria coach, Jose Peseiro.

“We’re in the semis, there’s great team spirit and commitment and we’re playing as a unit,” Peseiro told reporters.

“We have a huge game against a strong team in South Africa and we want to win to reach the final because that is our goal.”

Peseiro acknowledged Nigeria faces a unique test against an organised South Africa side high on confidence. He also highlighted the threat posed by South Africa.

“It’s a high level game and we know their quality, capacity and spirit – they have great players,” Super Eagles head coach Peseiro added. “My players need to give 100% or more to win and achieve our target of making the final.”

Nigeria’s focus remains on executing their game plan effectively and overcoming the challenges posed by South Africa and will be boosted by the return of African Footballer of the Year Victor Osimhen. The striker was given the green light to feature in the semi-final match against South Africa after passing a late fitness test.

Despite experiencing abdominal discomfort and being left behind at their hotel in Abidjan initially, Osimhen underwent final tests by the team medics and was deemed fit to play. He joined the team’s training session at the Stade Annexe in Bouake on Tuesday evening, signalling his readiness for the big game.

Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen in training ahead of South Africa match.

Osimhen’s presence will undoubtedly bolster Nigeria’s attacking prowess and provide a significant boost to their chances of securing a spot in the AFCON final. With his endless running and magnificent passes, Osimhen has been instrumental in Nigeria’s journey through the tournament.

Bafana Bafana of South Africa

This will be another entry for the rich history books of African football, with South Africa’s Bafana Bafana facing a formidable Nigerian side in the semi-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations.

South Africa reached the semi-finals after a spirited display against Cape Verde by goalkeeper Ronwen Williams, securing a 2-1 0n penalty shootout victory after saving 4 spot-kicks to set up a last four clash with Nigeria.

Bafana Bafana have grown into the tournament after an opening 2-0 defeat against Mali in the group stage. Since the, they have gone from strength to strength in the AFCON tournament as they seek to reach the final.

South Africa are led by 2017 AFCON-winning coach Hugo Broos, who guided the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon to victory. The Belgian tactician is assisted by Helman Mkhalele, a key member of the 1996 golden generation that lifted South Africa’s first and only African title.

Coach Broos acknowledged the difficult task awaiting South Africa against a star-studded Nigeria side boasting the likes of Victor Osimhen and Ademola Lookman. But he insisted his squad will be ready for Wednesday’s showdown after banishing past doubts over their quality.

South Africa coach, Hugo Broos.

“The semi-final will be tough against Nigeria’s great players but we have nothing to lose now,” Broos stated. “The players will recover and prepare, but staying focused is essential.”

The coach admitted he took great satisfaction from his side’s AFCON semi-final qualification after years of pessimism surrounding Bafana Bafana. The Belgian believes the achievement can boost South African football after many had written off their chances before the tournament

Bafana Bafana players in training.

“Many people in South Africa didn’t believe in this team but we believed and the players believed in themselves,” Broos added. “Reaching the semi-finals is great for South African football which has struggled in recent years.”

It will be an uphill battle containing an explosive Super Eagles side led by the dangerous Victor Osimhen and the red-hot Ademola Lookman.

However, after years of struggle in football, South Africa are daring to dream again thanks to Broos’ vision and belief.

Nigeria remain unbeaten at the tournament after their win against Ivory Coast along with two draws in the group stage, while South Africa’s strength has been their defence and they too have not conceded since their opening loss to Mali.

The two sides have met 14 times, with the Super Eagles enjoying a lion’s share of the results with 7 victories against 2 for South Africa, with the remaining 5 ending in stalemates.

In the other semi-final match, hosts Cote d’Ivoire will face DR Congo by 9:00pm (WAT) for a place in the final, at the Stade Olympique Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

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