Nigeria and South Africa will square up at the Cairo International Stadium for a place in the semifinal of Africa’s foremost football competition.
Wednesday’s encounter will revive the rivalry between these teams, after they met earlier in the qualifiers for the tournament in Egypt. It will also be their third meeting in the continental showpiece.
During the qualifying series in Group E, Bafana Bafana humbled Gernot Rohr’s men 2-0 in Uyo before settling for a 1-1 draw in Johannesburg last November, which confirmed Nigeria’s qualification as group winners while South Africa finished as runners-up.
The Super Eagles have been in decent form in Egypt, and they overcame their disappointing group stage defeat to Madagascar by edging Cameroon in a five-goal thriller in their Round of 16 fixture at the Alexandria Stadium.
Their charge for a fourth continental title is boosted by forward Odion Ighalo, who has scored three of the country’s five goals and stands as the joint-top scorer in the tournament alongside Sadio Mane, Adam Ounas and Cedric Bakambu.
Ighalo is expected to lead Nigeria’s frontline in Cairo alongside Ahmed Musa and Moses Simon, whose pace and individual brilliance could be crucial in the encounter.
Statistically, Nigeria have qualified in eight of their nine quarterfinal appearances in the competition and have only lost just one of their matches in the last eight.
So far, South Africa have shown resilience by fighting their way out of Group D behind Morocco and Ivory Coast to qualify for the knockout stage as one of the best losers.
After scoring just a goal in the group phase [against Namibia], Stuart Baxter’s side exceeded expectations by eliminating host nation Egypt from of the competition, thanks to Thembinkosi Lorch’s strike in the 85th minute.
Following his heroics against the Pharaohs last Saturday, Lorch remains a threat to the Super Eagles’ defence, while the pace and skill of Lebo Mothiba and Percy Tau should not be taken for granted.
Ahead of the fixture in Cairo, Baxter has disclosed he will not be taking special measures to stop Ighalo at Cairo International Stadium.
“I think there have been some good players who have played against us already – [Wilfried] Zaha, [Mohamed] Salah, [Mahmoud Hassan] Trezeguet the list is long,” Baxter said in his pre-match press conference.
“We don’t make individual plans for players in terms of man marking etc. We would solve that as a team.”