Nigeria’s Super Eagles will be in action on Wednesday when they take on South Africa in the semi-finals of the AFCON 2023.
The Eagles will go into the tie as overwhelming favourites, thanks to their perfect record of three wins in three games at the AFCON against South Africa.
For this to be achieved, the three-time AFCON winners must be at their very best, as South Africa have shown that they can cause an upset.
Ahead of the big encounter in Bouake, here are five players who are capable of ending the Eagles’ hopes of reaching a first final since 2013.
The Al Ahly Star is no stranger when it comes to playing against Nigeria’s Super Eagles.
The diminutive playmaker was part of the Bafana Bafana side that defeated the Eagles in Uyo, during the first leg qualifiers for 2019 AFCON.
Tau got his side’s second goal as they won 2-0 and recorded their first-ever competitive win against Nigeria.
Also, in the second leg tie in Johannesburg which ended 1-1, Tau provided the assist for South Africa’s equaliser.
At this year’s tournament, Tau showed his mental strength as he stepped up to convert from the penalty spot in South Africa’s 4-0 win against neighbours Namibia.
He had initially missed from the spot after blasting his effort over the bar in his team’s 2-0 loss to Mali.
So, if there is one player who deserve a lot of attention it’s definitely Tau as he has shown in past encounters what he is capable of in past meetings with Nigeria.
If there is one person who has contributed hugely to South Africa’s run to the semi-finals, it is their goalkeeper, Ronwen Williams.
After a not too impressive start to this year’s AFCON where they lost 2-0 to Mali, Williams has been magical in goal as they have kept four consecutive clean sheets.
He equaled South Africa’s legend Andre Arendse record of four clean sheets at the 1996 AFCON on home soil.
He could be described as the standout performer in the quarter-final stage thanks to his brilliance in Bafana Bafana’s win against Cape Verde.
He has so far produced one of the highlights of the tournament and also in the history of the AFCON after saving four penalties as South Africa triumphed 2-1 from the spot.
The Eagles have the ambition of reaching a first AFCON since 2013 but will have to be at their attacking best against Williams who could be the obstacle in the team realizing their target.
The midfielder has contributed to two of his country’s six goals scored so far in Côte d’Ivoire which came against Namibia.
Aside getting on the score sheet, Themba Zwane has proven that he also has eyes for killer passes, which was evident in the round of 16 win against Morocco.
It was his brilliant defence splitting through pass that set up Evidence Makgopa for the opener against Morocco as South Africa win 2-0.
Also, Zwane has seen action in all of coach Hugo Broos’ side which shows his importance and contributions to the team’s success so far.
Non of the Eagles’ midfielders can boast of a goal or an assist, as Zwane has shown that in him Bafana possess someone who can get among the goals and also provide an assist.
Mokoena has featured in all of South Africa’s games at the AFCON 2023 and has been impressive.
His displays for Bafana Bafana is a testament to the fact that the Eagles will have themselves to blame if they underestimate their semi-final foes.
What is imperative for the Eagles to know is that in Mokoena, South Africa has someone who can wreak havoc especially from free-kicks.
Mokoena showed what he is capable of after Scoring from a free kick against Morocco, an effort set piece greats like David Beckham, Ronaldinho, Zinedine Zidane and Hristo Stoichkov would be proud of.
He made it 2-0 after sending his effort over the Moroccan wall, beating Africa’s best goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.
For the Eagles to realise their dream of reaching the final of the AFCON again, they must be cautious not to give cheap free kicks away, as Mokoena might make them pay dearly for it.
Despite goalkeeper Ronwen Williams getting most of the plaudits for his heroics in goal for Bafana, one player who cannot be overlooked his defender Mothobi Mvala.
Mvala is one of the main reasons why Bafana have been impenetrable, as he has been fantastic in helping his team contain attacks.
A physical and imposing defender, the Super Eagles forward line must be at their very best if they hope to get on the score sheet because Mvala has shown that he is unfazed when it comes to defending against some of Africa’s finest attackers.