The Super Eagles will be looking to regain supremacy over South Africa as they clash in AFCON 2019.
South Africa coach Stuart Baxter was rattled at a press conference on Tuesday, July 9 when Nigerian journalist Colin Udoh opined that Bafana Bafana’s last win against Nigeria in June 2017 was against a Super Eagles team without a host of their starters and that they would have lost if the referee didn’t incorrectly rule out two goals when the two sides played out a 1-1 draw in November 2018.
Baxter who led his Bafana Bafana side to a 2-0 win over Nigeria in Uyo in 2017 and that 1-1 draw in the return leg in South Africa has been very boastful and braggy about his side’s chances against the Super Eagles.
Perhaps it is his ploy to erase the underdog tag away from the minds of his players when it comes to the Super Eagles, something they have struggled to do for years.
The struggle started their biggest moment in football, winning the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title on home soil, a feat that Nigerians downplayed to be just out of luck and chance of the Super Eagles of Nigeria missing that tournament due to a political tussle between the two countries.
It left South Africa to continue to aver that feat. At times, it seems they don’t even believe they did deserve it, so that doubt has given them a strong desire to fiercely compete against Nigeria.
They failed many times, especially in competitive games but this changed in recent years. In fact, the Super Eagles have not won a competitive match against the Bafana Bafana for almost 11 years and there was that 2-0 loss on home soil in 2017.
Since then, Baxter has been very braggy about his side chances against the Super Eagles but he has been very cautious ahead of the clash between Nigeria and South Africa in the quarterfinals of AFCON 2019 on Wednesday, July 10.
Super Eagles boss Gernot Rohr has called South Africa the favourite, but Baxter was quick to reject that tag.
“Nigeria have been a powerhouse of African football for a long time and one game doesn’t make us favourites,” he told the media at a press conference ahead of the game.
“I think he’ll love to have that tag as underdogs and in that way, slip the pressure from you guys but I don’t think he’s fooling anybody to tell you the truth.”
Rohr insists he is not playing mind games and pointed to his team’s struggle in their last two games and South Africa’s performances against hosts Egypt in their round-of-16 clash.
“South Africa stifled Egypt in that game with high pressing and quick passing to cause an upset with a 1-0 win,” Rohr said.
“No, we don’t play this (mind) game. We are realistic. We believe that we still have to improve.”
“We had very difficult games. We lost against Madagascar, we suffered against Cameroon, made a lot of mistakes so we are realistic. South Africa played so well against Egypt and they have also the advantage that they know already this stadium and they had success here. We arrived yesterday from Alexandria, not so hot like here. All is different here.
“Also they beat the favourites, the number one team. When you beat the favourites, you become the favourites.”
Rohr knows first hand how much upset the South African’s can cause as it was the Bafana Bafana that gave him his first loss in charge of the Super Eagles.
He has a couple of worries with his team ahead of the game. The defence has conceded four goals in their last two games and they have also struggled to create chances.
The form of his striker Odion Ighalo should be a relief for him and also the availability of his players. All 23 players have trained ahead of the game and Rohr will be looking to put out a balanced team that can tame the South Africans.
Baxter’s main aim should be a repeat of the performance against Egypt so they can continue to hold the bragging rights over Nigeria.