Bafana vs Nigeria: Can Mashaba’s young charges overcome the hoodoo?

2014-09-07 16:15

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Bafana Bafana face their archrivals Nigeria in a Group A fixture for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers this week.

And for Bafana, they don’t come as big as Nigeria.

Football matches between South Africa and Nigeria are on the same scale as a Springboks vs All Blacks game in rugby or the Proteas vs Australia in cricket.

Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba should be aware of this as he goes into Wednesday night’s game against the Super Eagles at the Cape Town Stadium.

There is also the fact that Nigeria has come out on top in most of their encounters with Bafana.

The two countries have met nine times in official matches?–?­Nigeria has won seven, one game ended in a draw and Bafana notched up a single win.

Nigeria even rub it in our faces that the only reason South Africa won the Afcon 1996 tournament was because they were not playing.

They also have the swagger, arrogance and boastfulness that goes with being one of the best national teams on the continent.

Take Mamelodi Sundowns striker Ejike Uzoenyi. He was part of the Nigerian team in this year’s World Cup, but has not been ­selected for this campaign due to a lack of match fitness.

This week, he told KickOff Magazine that his compatriots were coming here to pick up some easy points from Bafana.

“Nigeria is the best team in Africa and they are coming to South Africa to beat Bafana. We are the best and you can’t take that away from us, we are the best in Africa. We have unbelievable players who can do crazy things with the ball,” he boasted.

And he was not being arrogant. He was being Nigerian – and modest at that.

Can Mashaba’s young charges overcome the hoodoo?

The answer is yes, especially after a morale-boosting 3-0 victory away in Sudan on Friday night when they got their campaign off to a flying start.

But it will take some serious planning from the coach as well as proper implementation thereof and lots of guts from the players.

Many would think Nigeria is there for the taking if the squabbles that have been going on between their football association and government is anything to go by.

Coach Stephen Keshi only rejoined the team a week ago after the intervention of the country’s sports minister.

Between today and Tuesday, Mashaba needs to lay his ducks in a row and drill his charges so well that their defence is as watertight as it was against Sudan.

He should drum it into their heads that chances such as the one that Tokelo Rantie let slip after Sudan goalkeeper Elmoiz Mahgoub had dropped the ball straight at his feet, will need to be taken in this match as any miss can prove to be very costly.

Bafana have a long way to catch up with Nigeria on the number of matches won.

Can Wednesday be the day they cut down the deficit? The answer will be known around 10pm on the day.

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