Nigerian football legend and former Moroka Swallows goalkeeper Greg Etafia says that even though it is difficult to make a prediction, he believes that Nigeria will have the upper hand over South Africa.
The two nations meet in the semi-finals of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations on Wednesday night.
Bafana coach Hugo Broos’ side will have a mammoth task when they face the rejuvenated Super Eagles, who had a drab start to the tournament.
The west Africans opened their group stage in a lethargic fashion after they were held 1-1 by minnows from Equatorial Guinea.
They then recorded uninspiring victories over hosts Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau to progress to the knockout stage.
Their biggest win was when they knocked out Cameroon in the last-16 round via a 2-0 score line.
They then beat Angola in the quarter-finals to book a spot in the last four against one of their biggest rivals.
Etafia has been part of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) for more than 20 years.
He spent 13 years at Swallows and has been working as a goalkeeper coach since his retirement six years ago.
Currently, he is part of the technical team at TS Galaxy, working with the club’s first team goalkeepers under coach Sead Ramovic.
A poor start to the tournament
“Both teams have been taking it one game at a time since the start of the tournament. They did not have a great start, especially South Africa, who lost their first match,” said Etafia.
“Nigeria, too, had a poor outing in their opening game against Equatorial Guinea. But both countries have massive experience and history, and they were able to fight their way back into contention, and that’s how you judge true champions.
“What we saw in the tournament is that Nigeria is able to manage the game better and also to close the game well when they need to, and this is going to be a cracker of a game.”
He continued: “I believe that Nigeria will have the upper hand because of their experience and the players that they have.
“Some Nigerian players play for the biggest clubs in the world, and this could give us some advantage. Another factor that makes the Nigerian team more confident is that Bafana have never beaten them in major tournaments like this; they only win friendly matches.
“So, this should motivate them to continue dominating Bafana.
“Even the supporters of both teams do not want to lose this match. It started with the 1996 Afcon, which was hosted by SA.
“Nigeria, who were the defending champions, pulled out of the tournament due to political issues. Bafana won the tournament, and even today, Nigerians still believe that SA were not legitimate winners, and the rivalry started at that time.”
Bafana cannot be undermined
Etafia explained further that even though the Bafana team is mostly based in the PSL, they cannot be undermined.
“There is also a plus for SA because 90% of the starting 11 play for Mamelodi Sundowns, and they are used to each other,” he said.
“They know the strength of each other, and that’s why they were able to reach this stage of the competition.
“They play in CAF club competitions week in and out, and they understand what is required to go all the way in this tournament.”
The match will be played at the Stade de la Paix in Bouake, with kick-off at 7pm.