Nigeria, South Africa in grudge match
Onazi, Bafana Bafana captain in war of words
For Super Eagles team captain, Ogenyi Onazi, tomorrow’s AFCON qualifier against the Bafana Bafana of South Africa in Uyo is a revenge mission.
“We do not want to forget that South Africa partly contributed to Nigeria not going to the 2015 Cup of Nations,” Onazi, who is standing in as skipper for unavailable John Mikel Obi said yesterday.
In 2014, the Super Eagles were held to a 2-2 draw by South Africa at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium Uyo in a final qualifying game for the 2015 AFCON, a draw, which denied Nigeria a place at the competition held in Equatorial Guinea.
This time, the Turkey-based midfielder believes the Eagles will fly higher against the boastful South Africans. “This time, we must restore our pride and make sure we get the three points off them. Nigerians do not forgive losers easily and it is our responsibility to make the country proud whenever we are in action,” he told supersport.com.
But his rival captain, Thulani Hlatshwayo of South Africa said it will be another ‘bad evening’ for Nigerian football lovers.
“We have come close to beating them in our last two meetings and I think they are there for the taking this time,” he said. “Although Nigeria are a proud and arrogant team, I believe we have now overcome that psychological barrier of not having beaten them in an official match.
“This will be a grudge match. We denied them a place at the 2015 Cup of Nations and they will be out for revenge, which might work to our advantage.”
Tomorrow’s 2019 AFCON qualifier, a Group E showdown in Uyo, offers the South Africans another chance to beat Nigeria for the first time in an official match after six losses and three draws since 1992.
Hlatshwayo, a centre-back from South African champions Wits, was named captain this week by new England-born coach Stuart Baxter.
Apart from being a bogey team for South Africa, an in-form squad, home advantage, longer preparations and several warm-up matches make Nigeria favourites.