AFCON Qualifier: South Africa vs Nigeria Preview

South Africa v Nigeria Preview

Our football analyst previews the AFCON Qualifier between South Africa and Nigeria which takes place on Saturday 17 November 2018.

Hearts all over the continent will be beating for Nigeria or South Africa as these two great intracontinental rivals battle it out for places in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. The Super Eagles will fly to FNB Stadium hoping to avenge the first leg defeat while the hosts will be looking to steer clear of Libya who are threatening to pip them to qualification.

Percy Tau, Wilfred Ndidi, Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho, Daniel Akpeyi, Itumeleng Khune and Thembinkosi Lorch are some of the beguiling names that will have fans transfixed for the duration of the clash. So, how will the game pan out?

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AFCON Qualifier
South Africa vs Nigeria
Saturday 17 November
FNB Stadium

To Win
South Africa 5/4
Draw 2/1
Nigeria 9/4

South Africa
Whoever wins this clash will seal qualification with one game remaining, irrespective of what happens in the other match between Libya and Seychelles. Nigeria top the standings with nine points and South Africa sit in second place with a point less. If either of these sides crumble in the next two games, third-placed Libya who have four points, can still qualify.

Bafana Bafana flattered to deceive in the recent back-to-back fixtures against Seychelles. After annihilating the islanders 6-0 at FNB Stadium, they were held to a goalless draw in the return leg. That came off the back of a goalless draw with Libya at Moses Mabhida Stadium. They will really have their work cut out for them against a bigger opposition and they have to bring their A-game.

When the squad was announced, most people were flabbergasted at the omission of Orlando Pirates midfield kingpin Xola Mlambo who is in superb form. Speaking of the squad, Stuart Baxter has recalled Dutch-based Thulani Serero who snubbed the national team last year but the player didn’t represent his team, Vitesse, for the first time in 45 matches this past weekend due to an “injury”. It shall be interesting to see how his situation pans out.

South Africa claimed their first ever competitive win against the Super Eagles earlier in these qualifiers. Prior to that, the hosts had registered six defeats and three draws. The fact that the win was away from home should give Stuart Baxter’s men enough confidence in their own backyard.

The biggest surprise for me when I looked at the Nigerian squad was the omission of captain Mikel John Obi who hasn’t kicked a ball for the national team since captaining them at this year’s World Cup. The skipper had previously been excused from the national team to nurse niggling injuries but has now fully recovered and is playing regularly for his Chinese club, Tianjin Teda.

Another big-name superstar who won’t be available for selection is Odion Ighalo who will be sidelined by injury and his place has been taken up by Galatasaray striker Henry Onyekuru. Ighalo is the qualifiers’ leading goalscorer with six goals to his name and his unavailability will be a blow to the visitors.

South African-based goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi cracked the nod and will have knowledge of other PSL players. Another player to watch is Leicester City’s 21-year-old midfielder Wilfred Ndidi has expressed his desire to play in the AFCON for the first time ever. He will be pulling the strings behind Kelechi Iheanacho, Alex Iwobi, Watford’s Isaac Success and Ahmed Musa.

Verdict: Nigeria Win (9/4)
My patriotism tempts me to back Bafana Bafana, but by a way of contrast, my football brain is at war with it and dictates me to make an objective prediction. Nigeria might not have the old guard in the likes of John Mikel Obi, Victor Moses and Odion Ighalo, but the youngsters in the team ply their trade in the top leagues around the world and I expect them to be too strong for the hosts. Put your money on the Super Eagles to collect maximum points and seal qualification with a game remaining.

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