The battle for the top of Group E in the 2019 AFCON Qualifiers returns on Saturday, as Nigeria travel to the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, as they take on South Africa.
Nigeria have won seven, drawn four and lost twice in their last 13 meetings with South Africa. Most recently, the Super Eagles lost 2-0 to the Bafana Bafana at Uyo. Nigeria will be eager to redeem themselves having mostly dominated against the South African team. The West African team seem to have regained form after the lapse 17 months ago, winning three games on the bounce to go top of the group on nine points.
Nigeria’s most in-form player, Odion Ighalo, will miss the visit to FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on November 17 due to an injury as confirmed by head coach Gernot Rohr. Other notable absentees according to the Nigerian head coach include; Francis Uzoho, Shehu Abdullahi and Wilfred Ndidi (suspension).
Coming into this game, Nigeria will be spirited (even though there are notable absentees) after defeating Libya 3-2 in their last qualifier, whilst their opponents, South Africa, drew 1-1 away from home against underdogs Seychelles.
Nigeria obviously boast of dominance in their meetings with South Africa, but having not recorded a single win in their last four encounters could be a thing of worry for the Super Eagles.
Nigeria will be anxious to assure AFCON qualification ahead of the final match day in March 2019, and have arranged to arrive in Johannesburg only hours before kickoff in order to deal with the altitude.
One thing the Nigerian fans would not want to know is that, the Nigerian team may have dominated over the South Africans in previous meetings, but the Super Eagles’ travels at Johannesburg have not ended in a single win for them. However, considering Gernot Rohr’s injury (and suspension) crisis, with omission of John Obi Mikel and Ogenyi Onazi, they will miss the attacking power of Odion Ighalo. With this record not favorable to them, this might not be the right time to play the South Africans.
However, this also gives room for other players to give their best to the team and seal the victory here, with Samuel Chukwueze eyeing his debut against the Bafana Bafana.
The Super Eagles will definitely qualify with a draw here, but being familiar with the Super Eagles’ struggles in ‘seemingly’ good situations in the past, and a synthesis of altitude, a poor record in Johannesburg, and many key absentees increases the possibility for history to repeat itself on Saturday.