The Super Eagles will battle the Bafana Bafana of South Africa in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers game at the FNB stadium Johannesburg on Saturday.
While there could be a less stated race to who clinches the top spot in group D, the focus will be on cementing a spot at the 2019 AFCON out of the two available in the group.
Recall Nigeria’s Super Eagles suffered their first competitive match defeat against South Africa in the opening match of the group’s African Cup of Nations qualifiers.
As it stands, Nigeria will be on a mission for two things. One is to revenge the 2-0 home defeat by the Bafana Bafana boys in Nigeria.
Also, the Super Eagles want to seal a top spot in the group. A point is all Nigeria needs to remain atop the group that has South Africa, Libya and Seychelles.
South Africa on the other side would do all it can to ensure Nigeria doesn’t have the much needed one point to secure qualification to Cameroon AFCON 2019.
Another motivating factor for the Bafana Bafana boys is that: a victory against Nigeria will be a signal sent to other African teams on their level of preparedness and a transit from the category of pretenders in African football.
Howbeit, in the area of team selection, both teams have alot to worry about. Especially the Super Eagles of Nigeria.
Nigeria’s tactical gaffer, Gernot Rohr is faced with a similar situation he had before the World Cup in Russia where Nigeria crashed out at the group stages.
Currently, Rohr’s trusted goalkeeper Francis Uzhoho is injured, the situation presents the German tactician the headache of choosing between Chippa United’s Daniel Akpeyi, Enyimba’s Theophelus Afelokhai, and Ikechukwu Ezenwa.
Another reason to worry for the Nigerian coach is the selection of infield players as well. The team’s captain John Obi Mikel has been left out of the team. Wilfred Ndidi is suspended after his yellow card against Seychelles and Libya. Super Eagles top goal scorer Jude Ighalo has been sidelined with injury.
The situation is as dicey as the goalkeeping position for him, because the loyal coach hasn’t exactly afforded others opportunity in the team asides his trusted eleven. Selection for Ndidi and Mikel’s role would be between John Ogu, Mikel Agu and Oghenekaro Etebo.
Ighalo’s position has also generated some debate. Some people suggest Rohr might choose to go the false nine route with current captain Ahmed Musa. But should he opt for another number nine, he has the option of Henry Onyekuru, Isaac Success, Kelechi Iheanacho, Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze.
South Africa on the other side have worries too. Bafana Bafana Coach Stuart Baxter is not better off, as Dean Furman, Bongani Zungu, Keegan Dolly, Sibusiso Vilakazi, Bradlet Grobler and Kamohelo Mokotjo are not available.
While Percy Tau and Thulani Serero are real threats, Tokelo Rantie – who scored three of South Africa’s last five goals against Nigeria – is out of the picture having been sacked in Turkey and presently nursing a new career as a farmer.
It definitely will be an intriguing as both teams shuffle to get their best team onto the turf in the fixture that kicks off 2:00pm.