Bafana are back in the big time as they meet Nigeria in the quarter-finals
Despair for the host nation but joy for South Africa, who are in the Afcon quarter-finals for the first time since 2013 thanks to the 1-0 win over Egypt.
There was Phil Masinga’s long-range scorcher in August 1997 that ensured Bafana Bafana’s qualification for the 1998 World Cup. Then there was Siphiwe Tshabalala’s sublime left-footed missile in the opening match of the 2010 World Cup. And in the list of all-time great goals for South Africa in international football, now there is Thembinkosi Lorch’s sweet finish against Egypt, which shocked African football as the men from Mzansi dumped the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations hosts out of the tournament.
Despair for the host nation but joy for South Africa, who are in the Afcon quarter-finals for the first time since 2013 thanks to the 1-0 win over Egypt. Their next challenge is against Nigeria on Wednesday. And who Stuart Baxter selects for the clash against the Super Eagles is anyone’s guess. Lorch, the match winner against Egypt, was thrust into Bafana’s starting lineup for that match having previously not played a single minute at Afcon 2019.
Baxter has settled on his preferred back four, with Ronwen Williams also emerging as the first-choice goalkeeper since Darren Keet got a match against Namibia in matchday 2. But the coach has chopped and changed his midfield and attack throughout the tournament and even though his side struggled through the group phase, he will argue that the policy is paying dividends. They are in the quarter-finals, after all.
Wednesday’s matchup against Nigeria will provide another stern test, as the West Africans progressed into the last eight with a dramatic win in a five-goal thriller against Cameroon, the defending champions. The Super Eagles recorded two 1-0 wins in the group stage before losing to Madagascar to finish second in Group B. Nigeria, despite their inconsistency, are a quality team with the likes of captain Jon Obi Mikel bringing heaps of experience to the midfield while players such as Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi and Levante’s Moses Simon represent a serious threat in the final third.
Bafana key player
Bongani Zungu has been near ever-present for his country in the tournament and the 26-year-old midfielder will have a key role to play if Bafana are to build on the remarkable win over Egypt last time out.
Nigeria key player
Alex Iwobi, who plays just behind the striker, did not feature against Madagascar – and his team missed his presence. He returned in the last-16 tie against Cameroon to score what turned out to be the winning goal.
Live-stream all of Bafana Bafana’s Afcon matches on Showmax.