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HEAD-TO-HEAD: Super Eagles hold the ace ahead AFCON semi-final tie against South Africa

HEAD-TO-HEAD: Super Eagles hold the ace ahead AFCON semi-final tie against South Africa

Nigeria and South Africa will renew their rivalry on Wednesday, as they clash in the semi-finals of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Ivory Coast.

The two teams have a long history of competitive encounters, dating back to 1992, with the Super Eagles having the upper hand in most of them.

However, the Bafana Bafana will be hoping to avenge their previous defeats and reach their first final since 1998.

Nigeria’s road to the semi-finals

The Super Eagles started their AFCON campaign with a 1-1 draw against Equaorial Guinea, with Victor Osimhen heading in the equaliser two minutes after Ivan Salvador had put Equatorial Guinea ahead. They then defeated with hosts Ivory Coast 1-0 thanks to a William Troost-Ekong penalty, before securing their place in the knockout stage with a 1-0 victory over Guinea Bissau, thanks to an own goal from Opa Sangante.

They then went to secure a 2-0 victory over Cameroon in the round of 16, courtesy of a brace from Ademola Lookman. In the quarter-finals, they faced Angola, prevailing 1-0, with Lookman scoring his third goal of the tournament in the first half.

Nigeria have been impressive defensively, keeping four clean sheets in five matches, and conceding only one goal in the group stage. They have also shown their attacking prowess, with Lookman, Osimhen, and Moses Simon forming a dynamic trio upfront. The Super Eagles are aiming for their fourth AFCON title, and their first since 2013.

South Africa’s road to the semi-finals

South Africa had a shaky start to their AFCON campaign, losing 2-0 to Mali in their opening match. They bounced back with a 4-0 trouncing of Namibia, thanks to a brace from Themba Zwane sandwiched between goals from Percy Tau and Thepelo Maseko. They then secured their spot in the last 16 with a 0-0 draw with Tunisia, finishing as runners-up in their group behind Mali.

In the knockout stage, they pulled off a major upset by beating Morocco 2-0, with Teboho Mokeona scoring a late freekick in the fifth minute of stoppage time after Evidence Makgopa had put them ahead early into the second half. They then faced Cape Verde in the quarter-finals, and after a goalless 120 minutes, they won 2-1 on penalties, with goalkeeper Ronwen Williams saving four spot-kicks.

South Africa have been solid defensively, conceding only two goals in five matches, and keeping four clean sheets. They have also been resilient and determined, overcoming difficult opponents and situations. The Bafana Bafana are looking for their second AFCON title, and their first since 1996.

Head-to-head history

Nigeria and South Africa have met 14 times in all competitions, with the Super Eagles winning seven, the Bafana Bafana winning two, and five ending in draws. Nigeria have also scored 22 goals, while South Africa have scored 9.

The two teams have faced each other three times at the AFCON, with Nigeria winning all of them. The first was in 2000, when Nigeria beat South Africa 2-0 in the semi-finals in Lagos. The second was in 2004, when Nigeria won 4-0 in the group stage in Monastir. The third was in 2019, when Nigeria edged South Africa 2-1 in the quarter-finals in Cairo, which was the most recent meeting between the two teams.

Nigeria vs South Africa: Head-to-head record
DateCompetitionWinning teamScore
October 10, 1992World Cup qualifier, LagosNigeria4-0
January 16, 1993World Cup qualifier, JohannesburgDraw0-0
February 10, 2000AFCON semi-final, LagosNigeria2-0
January 31, 2004AFCON group stage, MonastirNigeria4-0
November 17, 2004Friendly, DurbanSouth Africa2-1
June 01, 2008World Cup qualifier, AbujaNigeria2-0
September 06, 2008World Cup, Port ElizabethNigeria1-0
August 14, 2013Friendly, JohannesburgNigeria2-0
September 10, 2014AFCON qualifier, JohannesburgDraw0-0
November 19, 2014AFCON qualifier, UyoDraw2-2-
March 29, 2015Friendly, DurbanDraw1-1
June 10, 2017AFCON qualifier, UyoSouth Africa2-0
November 17, 2019AFCON qualifier, JohannesburgDraw1-1
July 10, 2019AFCON quarter-final, CairoNigeria2-1
William Troost-Ekong celebrates scoring Nigeria’s second goal against South Africa at the 2019 AFCON REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Prediction and analysis

The semi-final clash between Nigeria and South Africa promises to be a thrilling and tense affair, as both teams have shown their quality and ambition at the AFCON.

Nigeria have the advantage of having a more experienced and balanced squad, as well as a better head-to-head record against South Africa. They also have the confidence of having beaten them in all AFCON meetings.

However, South Africa have the motivation of seeking revenge and making history, as well as the momentum of having eliminated the favourites Morocco. They also have a strong defence and a reliable goalkeeper, who could frustrate Nigeria’s attack.

The match could be decided by a single goal or by penalties, as both teams are likely to be cautious and compact. Nigeria are the favourites, but South Africa are the dark horses, and anything could happen in a semi-final.

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