Afcon 2023: Nigeria and South Africa ready to resume rivalry – Capital Radio Malawi
21 July, 2024

Afcon 2023: Nigeria and South Africa ready to resume rivalry

Three-time African champions Nigeria will rekindle their continental rivalry with South Africa in a highly-anticipated semi-final at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations on Wednesday.

The West Africans have won all three of their previous meetings at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), have the better head-to-head record and are the highest-ranked side remaining in Ivory Coast.

Yet 1996 winners Bafana Bafana have already knocked out Morocco, Africa’s top-ranked side, and will aim to avenge the pain of past meetings with Nigeria when appearing in the last four for the first time since 2000 – when they were beaten 2-0 by the Super Eagles.

“It’s a kind of rivalry between Nigeria and South Africa and it is a do-or-die game between the two countries,” former Nigeria international Tijani Babangida told BBC Sport Africa.

“In 2000, we met in the semi-final and now it happens again. It’s going to be a battle. This Super Eagles team are determined to reach the final and win the trophy.”

The countries’ most recent Afcon meeting came in the 2019 quarter-finals in Egypt, with goals from Samuel Chukwueze and William Troost-Ekong giving the Super Eagles a 2-1 win.

South Africa won their sole Afcon title as hosts in 1996, on what was their debut at the finals.

Having finished as runners-up two years later before coming third in 2000, following their semi-final defeat by Nigeria in Lagos, Bafana Bafana failed to get past the quarter-finals again on three subsequent occasions until beating Cape Verde on penalties in Yamoussoukro on Saturday.

“We have come relatively close before, losing to a last-minute goal to Nigeria in 2019,” former South Africa captain Dean Furman told the BBC World Football at Afcon podcast.

“We lost in 2013 in the quarter-finals but finally we’ve got over the hurdle and what a way to do it. It’s huge.”

Nigeria are ranked 42nd in the world, 24 places above South Africa, but Bafana Bafana pulled off one of the shocks of the knock-out stages when Hugo Broos’ side beat Morocco 2-0 in the last 16.

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