Our writer previews the 2019 AFCON qualifier between Nigeria and South Africa.
Bafana Bafana and Nigeria will go toe-to-toe in the opening AFCON qualifier in Group E. This will be Stuart Baxter’s first game since taking charge over the national team for the second time in his managerial career. The former SuperSport United boss will need to make a massive statement against the Super Eagles, who are ranked fourth in the latest African FIFA rankings.
Both teams are on impressive unbeaten runs with Nigeria going seven games undefeated, while Bafana have not finished second best in 17 matches. Group E will be tough, but let’s hope Baxter’s boys can come out on top.
AFCON Qualifier | Saturday 10 June | Akwa Ibom Stadium | 18:00
To Win (90 Mins)
Nigeria 13/20 | Draw 51/20 | South Africa 47/10
Nigeria kick-start their AFCON qualifiers with a tricky test against South Africa. The Super Eagles, however, will be confident heading into the tie, boasting an excellent head-to-head record against Bafana Bafana.
In the 12 times they have met, Nigeria have come out superior on seven different occasions, drawing four times, suffering just one defeat – a 2-1 loss that came in a friendly back in 2004. The Super Eagles will be a tough side to beat. They’re unbeaten in seven matches, winning six.
Nigeria have a star-studded team, spearheaded by the attack of English Premier League trio, Kelechi Iheanacho, Ahmed Musa and Alex Iwobi. In midfield, they have Leicester City powerhouse, Wilfred Ndidi, bossing the play, turning defence into attack.
We’ll also get to see Chippa United shot-stopper, Daniel Akpeyi, who knows some of the boys quite well, hoping to keep the Bafana Bafana players at bay. One surprise omission from the squad was Chelsea star, Victor Moses, who thrived in the Blues’ title-winning Premier League campaign.
After not qualifying for the last AFCON, Nigeria will want to kick-start their first group match in spectacular fashion.
Stuart Baxter’s first game in charge of his second spell at Bafana will come against a young and fearless Nigeria side, with both teams looking to break into the 2019 AFCON tournament after failing to qualify for the last edition in Gabon.
Most supporters were fairly happy with Baxter’s squad that he had named, with just one or two names raising a few eyebrows. Nevertheless, this is a strong team and the boys will certainly put up a fight in Uyo, Nigeria.
The return of Bafana Bafana midfield general, Bongani Zungu, immediately got supporters on Baxter’s side. Zungu will make a massive difference in the national team. Another player who will make an instant impact is Aubrey Ngoma. The Cape Town City star earned his first call-up to the Bafana squad, and deservedly so!
With Kamohelo Mokotjo and Hlompho Kekana ruled out through injury, Dean Furman, Tiyani Mabunda and Andile Jali are the only players best-suited in the holding midfield role. ABSA Premiership Golden Boot winner, Lebogang Manyama, will probably fill the number 10 role with Zungu alongside him in the centre of the park.
Baxter will need a huge performance from the defence, and in my opinion, a back four of Ramahlwe Mphahlele, Lorenzo Gordinho, Thulani Hlatshwayo and Sifiso Hlanti might be the best option going up against the Super Eagles.
Prediction: Draw (51/20)
Nigeria are favourites for the tie, but South Africa are not the easiest team to beat these days. Bafana’s record doesn’t bode well against the Super Eagles, however, they have drawn the last three meetings. If you’re expecting a high-scoring encounter, I suggest you look elsewhere. Under 2.5 Goals looks a good bet at 11/20, but for value, back these sides to cancel each other out.
Written by Jesse Nagel @Hollywoodbets