Nigeria and South Africa are at each other’s jugular in what promises to be a frenetic Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final attrition at the Cairo International Stadium on Wednesday night. The match kicks off at 9 pm Egypt time (8 pm Nigeria time).
While the Super Eagles bundled out Cup holders and five-time winners Cameroon 3-2 in the Round of 16 in Alexandria on Saturday, the Bafana Bafana shocked host nation and seven-time champions Egypt 1-0 in front of 75,000 fans at the Cairo International Stadium.
Nigeria won the African title in 1980, 1994 and 2013, while South Africa won when they hosted in 1996.
Both teams were in the same qualifying pool during the campaign to reach Egypt 2019, with the Eagles finishing top of the pile while South Africa – who stunned Nigeria 2-0 in Uyo on the first day of the series – came second. Their second match in Johannesburg ended 1-1, granting Nigeria a ticket to the finals ahead of the final matchday.
The confidence, tactical discipline, savvy and ambition that South Africa showed in their defeat of Egypt was evident for the world to see, but the world also saw the competence, capacity, unyielding spirit and masterliness that the Super Eagles exhibited in ejecting the defending champions from the tournament.
South Africa has never beaten Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations finals, with their two previous meetings – a semi-final clash in 2000 in Lagos and group phase encounter in 2004 in Monastir – ending 2-0 and 4-0 respectively in favour of the Super Eagles.
When South Africa won their only title (in 1996 on home ground), Nigeria was absent as a result of a boycott ordered by military despot Sani Abacha. The withdrawal led to a CAF suspension that accounted for another absence in 1998, where South Africa reached the final, losing to Egypt.
Nigeria has never ended an Africa Cup of Nations finals empty-handed where they eliminated the defending champions.