Nigeria head coach Gernot Rohr told www.aclsports.com minutes after South Africa shocked Egypt last Saturday that the familiarity between both teams does not serve as an advantage to either side ahead of Wednesday’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) quarter final game.
Both Nigeria and South Africa shared some identities in their group stage performances as neither team really impressed even if Nigeria won their first two games. The South Africans lost twice and only qualified for the round of 16 as the last best third placed team, relying on favours so from other teams.
However, both teams defeated illustrious opponents in the first knockout stage – Nigeria beating the defending champions Cameroon and South Africa beating the hosts and record champions Egypt. The victories, mostly against the odds have now set the tone for a rekindling of rivalry between both sides.
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Wednesday’s game will be the seventh meeting between both sides in the past six years and while the rivalry on the pitch has been enhanced by the fact that four out of those six meetings have ended in stalemates, it is the post-match banter and shaming of the losing side that scares fans of both teams the most.
The Super Eagles topped their qualifying group (for this tournament) which had South Africa and that was in spite of losing their first game at home to Bafana Bafana in Uyo just over two years ago – in Stuart Baxter’s first game in charge of the Bafana Bafana. The Eagles rebounded by winning their next three games, needing just a draw in Johannesburg last October, a result they achieved.
Both teams are now brimming with confidence ahead of Wednesday’s clash which should really be a mouth-watering contest in the capital city of Egypt.
Venue: Cairo International Stadium, Cairo. A 75,000 capacity edifice which has played hosts to the host team, Egypt’s games in this competition. All eyes will be on the participation of fans now that the Pharaohs have been eliminated.
Kickoff time: 9:00PM (8:00PM in Nigeria)
Referee: Redouane Jiyed (Morocco). He has previously officiated two games in this tournament: Uganda vs Congo DR and Angola vs Mali.
VAR: Benoit Millot (France), Janny Sikazwe (Zambia) and Hadji Malik Samba (Senegal).
WHAT THEY SAID:
Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr:
“We know them very well, we know that they are a fantastic team.
“To win here in Egypt against the host country and Mohammed Salah is fantastic and we had a good draw in Johannesburg in South Africa to qualify for the AFCON but we lost at home to them in Uyo so we have to take a revenge.”
Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo:
“It is going to be a tough match. We are happy because we believe the Egyptians will be on our side but we are the main actors of our own game and we are going to be on the pitch running and fighting.
“We have to do our job because if you don’t do your job there is no way you are going to get support from the fans. We are ready, it’s going to be a tough game, it’s going to be a big game tomorrow (Wednesday) but I believe we are ready to go.”
South Africa coach Stuart Baxter:
“I think one of the really important things for us is to remain very very humble. Because if you look back not so long ago then we wouldn’t be overconfident going into the game against Nigeria.
“The Nigerians are still one of the power houses in the continent, we’ve had a very good result (against Egypt) and yes we have done okay against Nigeria in the past but I think the question for us is, do we tweak the way we played against Nigeria before?
“But we should be under no illusions that Nigeria are one of the best teams in the continent and they have had a stable team of recent with this squad and it will be a massively difficult game for us.”
South Africa goalkeeper Ronwen Williams:
“Our performance in the opening few games were not up to standard. We knew we could play better and we were getting a lot of flak and stick back home.
“So (in that win over Egypt) we were just basically reminding them (fans back home) to believe in the team because we didn’t come here to perform badly. We work hard every day but things were a bit tough in the Group Stages but we just needed to remind them to stick together as a nation, support us through thick and thin. You never know in football, be there and support us at all times.”
Akpeyi; Awaziem, Ekong, Omeruo, Collins;
Ndidi, Etebo; Chukwueze, Iwobi, Musa; Ighalo
Williams; Mkhwanazi, Mkhize, Hlatshwayo, Hlanti;
Kekana, Zungu, Mokotjo;
Tau, Mothiba, Lorch
Fisayo Dairo, in Cairo