Bafana battle Nigeria

2015-03-29 07:00

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Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba is preparing to line up his big guns for today’s friendly against Nigeria at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.

The likes of Oupa Manyisa, Andile Jali, Tokelo Rantie, Rivaldo Coetzee, Sibusiso Vilakazi, Thuso Phala and Eric Mathoho missed Bafana’s 3-1 win over Swaziland on Wednesday.

They are expected to be back in action this afternoon against the Super Eagles, who will be under the stewardship of assistant coach Daniel “The Bull” Amokachi.

Nigeria are still reeling from their shock 1-0 defeat by Uganda at home on Wednesday and will be looking to bounce back against South Africa.

They are still smarting after Bafana denied them the opportunity to defend their Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) title in Equatorial Guinea earlier this year.

Nigeria have dominated the past 11 encounters between the two countries, winning seven, with three ending in draws and Bafana prevailing only once.

Mashaba will take comfort from the fact that he has not lost to the west Africans since taking over the reins. He came close to beating them in November, but Nigeria came back from 2-0 to draw 2-2.

The Super Eagles, who were without their European-based superstars, looked fairly ordinary against the Cranes, with Uganda exposing their defensive frailties.

Today should be Bafana’s best chance to silence their chief tormentors and get one up on their nemesis.

Although Nigeria have been Bafana’s hoodoo team, this is not the vintage Afcon-winning team of 2013, as the Nigerians are going through a process of rebuilding.

Bafana will feel confident going into the game after their morale-boosting victory over Swaziland. The goals came from captain Thulani Hlatshwayo, with newcomer Thabo Mnyamane scoring on debut and Mandla Masango – who came off the bench – scoring his second goal in as many games for the national team.

The return of those who missed the Swaziland game will give Mashaba a selection headache because the players who were preferred against Sihlangu Semnikati gave a good account of themselves.

Shakes Mashaba is out to ground the Super Eagles. Picture: CORNEL VAN HEERDEN

It will be interesting to see who Mashaba starts with in goal. Itumeleng Khune and Jackson Mabokgwane played in one half each of Wednesday’s game while Brilliant Khuzwayo did not make the team. Kickoff is at 3pm.

The game will be preceded by Amajimbos’ match against Mali at 1pm, a repeat of the CAF African Youth Championships final, which the west Africans won 2-0.

Both teams are heading to the Fifa Under-17 World Cup in Chile in October.

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