The stage is set for a thrilling encounter in the Africa Cup of Nations semi-final, as South Africa’s Bafana Bafana lock horns with the mighty Super Eagles of Nigeria. But according to two South African legends who tasted AFCON glory in 1996, the upcoming match won’t be a walk in the park for Bafana.
Neil Tovey, who captained the title-winning squad, and Mark Williams, who etched his name in history with a stunning brace in the final, both agree that Wednesday’s clash in Bouaké will be an uphill battle. The historical record doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, with Nigeria boasting a clean sheet against South Africa in the competition, having secured victories in all three previous meetings.
However, Bafana Bafana shouldn’t be counted out just yet. Their recent form, including a stunning 2-0 upset against 2022 World Cup semi-finalists Morocco, has injected hope into the hearts of South African fans.
Tovey stresses the importance of avoiding a purely defensive approach, as it would play right into Nigeria’s hands. Instead, he urges the team to replicate their performance against Morocco – defending strategically while applying pressure to keep the Super Eagles on their toes.
Williams, impressed by the team’s strong showing, notes the positive impact of having a core group of players from Mamelodi Sundowns. Their familiarity and understanding on the field are undeniable assets.
He acknowledges that Nigeria boasts individual brilliance with players like Victor Osimhen and Ademola Lookman, but believes South Africa’s squad, though less heralded, possesses the necessary skills to compete.
The key, he maintains, lies in their mentality – they need to step onto the pitch with an unwavering belief in their ability to win.
While the spotlight shines brightly on the Bafana Bafana vs. Super Eagles clash, the other semi-final promises its own set of fireworks. Both Tovey and Williams predict that the Ivory Coast will emerge victorious in their encounter against the Democratic Republic of Congo.