Prediction: Nigeria to win 2-0
Nigeria will be looking to continue their pursuit of the African Cup of Nations on Wednesday evening as they take on South Africa in Cairo.
The Super Eagles are arguably one of the most fancied to go all the way in the competition but come up against one of the shock packages of the tournament so far.
Possessing an extremely talented squad, Gernot Rohr’s Nigeria did not have the most convincing group stage ever. Slender 1-0 wins over Burundi and Guinea saw them maintain a perfect start but a shock 2-0 defeat to Madagascar in their final group match resulted in them finishing second in their group. They were also made to work for their place in the quarter-finals as despite taking the lead against Cameroon, they headed into the break 2-1 behind. Goals from Odion Ighalo and Alex Iwobi just after the hour mark though secured their progression.
Their history in the tournament does bode well though ahead of their quarter-final against. Of their 17 appearances at AFCON, the Super Eagles have failed to progress beyond the last-eight on only three occasions. Their recent form is also relatively positive too having only lost two out of their last 13 games in all competitions, claiming seven clean sheets in that time.
Former Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel is likely to be included after he recovered from a knee injury that saw him miss the defeat to Madagascar. Shehu Abdullahi can also feature again after recovering from his knee problem. Ighalo will no doubt be the man to lead the line again after his brace.
It would be fair to say that South Africa were potentially not expected to go this far into the tournament, especially as they faced heavily-fancied hosts Egypt in the last round. However, thanks to an excellent defensive display and a great goal on the counter-attack from forward Thembinkosi Lorch, they edged into the quarter-finals. The 1996 champions now have a wonderful opportunity to reach their first AFCON semi-finals since the 2000 edition where they finished third.
Much like their opponents, Stuart Baxter’s men head into the game in positive form. In their last 19 games in all competitions, they have only lost four matches, with all of those defeats being marginal. They lost to Madagascar and Botswana on penalties, before 1-0 defeats to the Ivory Coast and Morocco this year. The team will hope to keep their confidence up as they come up against another tough opponent in Cairo.
It is unlikely that there will be any changes to the South Africa team for this clash with the team having a clean bill of health. Lorch will again lead the line as the team look to plot their route to the semi-finals.
Key Facts To Consider
- Nigeria have the better all time head to head record between the two sides (W6, D5, L2)
- South Africa are unbeaten in their last five games against the Super Eagles
- The last match between the two teams ended 1-1
- There has only ever been one 0-0 between the two sides
- Only both sides have scored on four occasions in all of the games between the two
Considering how far into the tournament each side have gone, both will now have realistic hopes of winning AFCON. However, neither have been particularly convincing throughout and goals have been at a relative premium. Supporters may not expect a classic in Cairo but Nigeria just have the edge in their squad and should secure a semi-final place.
Prediction: Nigeria to win 2-0
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