The time has finally arrived for long-standing rivals South Africa and Nigeria to square off for bragging rights when they play each other to secure a place in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) final.
The highly anticipated Afcon semi-final match between Bafana Bafana and the Super Eagles will take place at the Stade de la Paix in Bouake, northeast of Ivory Coast, on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. (SA time), reigniting their intense rivalry.
Overzealous social media trolls between the two countries across the continent have been in full swing since they secured semi-final qualification at the weekend.
Fans have been mocking each other about which team will win and secure a spot in the final on Sunday in what has been an exciting Afcon competition.
Following the lifting of the 30-year ban on South Africa due to apartheid, the two teams have faced off 14 times. The first meeting took place in 1992 in Lagos, where Nigeria stunned Bafana with a 4-0 thrashing.
Nigeria currently has a strong head-to-head record against South Africa, having only lost twice while winning seven games and drawing five.
Nonetheless, in the previous 10 years, the two nations have faced off six times, with one victory each in the first four games, all of which ended in draws.
At their most recent Afcon meeting, which took place in Egypt in the quarterfinals, the Super Eagles prevailed 2-1 over Bafana after William Troost-Ekong’s last-minute winner nullified Bongani Zungu’s equaliser.
Despite Nigeria’s strong record, the current Bafana squad will not be a walk in the park, as they have proven time and again that they are a force to be reckoned with under the tutelage of Belgian international Hugo Broos.
Mkhalele’s role in Bafana bench
The presence of Broos’ assistant, Helman Mkhalelele, on the bench is also crucial going into the match, as the 54-year-old was part of the squad that lifted the Afcon trophy in 1996.
Stars like Nigeria’s drizzling wizard Jay-Jay Okocha, midfielder John Obi Mikel, and forwards Nwankwo Kanu and Rashidi Yekini, among others, have graced the event in previous years.
On the other hand, Bafana had the likes of tenacious defender Lucas Radebe, midfield maestro Doctor Khumalo, strikers Benni McCarthy and Mark Williams, and the late John “Shoes” Moshoeu.
Themba Zwane, Percy Tau, and Teboho Mokoena’s current Bafana generation will have a mandate to turn the tables against the star-studded Nigerian side that includes the current African Footballer of the Year Victor Osimhen, Atalanta forward Ademola Lookman, and quick winger Moses Simon in the mouthwatering matchup, which will be a rematch of the 2000 semi-final.