When the Super Eagles and South Africa’s Bafana Bafana clash on Wednesday in Bouake in the semi-final of the Africa Cup of Nations, one of the major football rivalries in the continent will be revived.
As Nigeria and South Africa get at each other’s jugular it will be a frenetic Africa Cup of Nations semi-final attrition. The Super Eagles are aiming at getting their fourth title after last winning 11 years ago in South Africa just as Bafana Bafana crave for a second, the 24th anniversary of their solitary win being about this time.
Nigeria won the African title in 1980, 1994 and 2013, while South Africa won when they hosted in 1996. Wednesday’s clash is the first of a trilogy that fate had instituted for both sides as they are also in the same World Cup qualifying pool and thus have two others clashes.
Fixtures of both have always been tension soaked, although the pendulum more than often swings in Nigeria’s favour. In 14 past clashes, Nigeria won seven and lost only twice to South Africa. The first loss being a friendly match to celebrate the legendary Nelson Mandela in November 2004 and the second being in Uyo
when the Super Eagles fielded a half-strength side in their 2-0 home loss in 2017 but still came top in the qualifying series for the 2019 edition.
It is a rarity for Nigeria end an Africa Cup of Nations finals empty –handed as they had been to the semifinals in 15 of their previous 19 outings. This is just the first time South Africa are getting to that stage in 24 years and overall, this year is just the fourth time they are getting to the semi-finals.