• Friday, June 21, 2024
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2026 World Cup Qualifier: Can Nigeria maintain dominance against South Africa?

Nigeria-SouthAfrica

Three-time African champions, Nigeria’s Super Eagles, are set to face their arch-rivals, South Africa’s Bafana Bafana, in a crucial 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier on Friday, June 7, at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo.

The Super Eagles currently sit in third place in Group C with two points from two games, while Bafana Bafana are in second place with three points, trailing group leaders Rwanda by just one point.

Friday’s encounter will mark exactly four months since the two teams clashed in the semi-final of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, a match that ended in a penalty shootout victory for Nigeria after a 1-1 full-time draw.

Nigeria went on to lose the AFCON final to the host nation Ivory Coast, marking only their second competitive defeat since a 1-0 away loss to Guinea-Bissau in March 2023.

Ahead of the game, Bafana Bafana’s head coach, Hugo Broos, has urged his team to play fearlessly against Nigeria, suggesting that the Super Eagles might not underestimate them this time.

“Nigeria were finalists at AFCON and have players competing in Europe’s top leagues, but we saw what we are capable of against them at AFCON,” said Broos.

“If we had a bit more luck, we could have reached the final. We don’t need to fear Nigeria; we know their strengths, and they know ours.”

Super Eagles under the leadership of former international Finidi George, who replaced Portuguese coach Jose Peseiro earlier this year, Nigeria aims to secure their seventh World Cup qualification. Nigeria has participated in three of the last four World Cups, missing only the most recent tournament in Qatar.

Finidi has had a mixed run, with consecutive 1-1 draws against Lesotho and Zimbabwe in the qualifiers, a 2-1 victory over Ghana, and a 2-0 loss to Mali in March friendlies.

Historically, Nigeria has been dominant in this rivalry, winning four and drawing five of their last ten encounters with South Africa. However, they will need to be at their best to overcome Bafana Bafana’s strong defense.

South Africa has shown significant improvement, finishing third at the recent AFCON and breaking into the top-10 ranked teams in the CAF region according to FIFA rankings. They have played out back-to-back draws against Andorra and Algeria, and their loss to Nigeria in February is their only defeat in their last eight matches across all competitions.

In the qualifiers, South Africa started with a 2-1 win over Benin but suffered a 2-0 loss to Rwanda. Key to their recent progress has been their solid defense, which conceded only three goals in seven AFCON matches, keeping five clean sheets.

Bafana Bafana aim to reach the World Cup for the fourth time in their history and the first time since hosting the event in 2010.