Former South Africa and Leeds United skipper, Lucas Radebe believes the Stuart Baxter managed Bafana Bafana have the opportunity to account for the scalp of Nigeria in their Group E African
Nations Cup qualifier on Saturday.
Bafana Bafana will book their ticket to AFCON 2019 with maximum points at the FNB Stadium against the Super Eagles.
Table–toppers Nigeria actually need just one point from Saturday’s encounter inside the FNB Stadium in Soweto, outside Johannesburg, to be sure of a slot at next year’s continental houseparty, but a combination of national pride, assumed rivalry between both teams and commitment to avenging a stinging defeat by the Bafana Bafana in Uyo 17 months ago has adorned this match with a totally different garb.
On Matchday 1 of the qualifying series, South Africa won 2-0 with goals from Tokelo Rantie and Percy Tau right inside the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, as Coach Gernot Rohr sent out a young, inexperienced Nigerian squad. However, that slap (the first ever loss to South Africa in a competitive match) stirred the formidable spirit in the Eagles and they swept all before them to earn a 2018 FIFA World Cup ticket with a match to spare.
However, the memory of that defeat has not gone away, which was why the Eagles have pulled no punches since the 2019 AFCON qualifiers resumed in September, winning all three matches to bounce to the top of the pool and standing at the door of qualification with a match to spare.
Nigeria have given the hosts plenty of heartache over the years, winning seven, drawing four and only losing twice (other loss was in the friendly Nelson Mandela Challenge 13 years ago) in previous meetings.
The Super Eagles notably beat Bafana 2-0 in the 2000 AFCON semi-finals in Lagos, while they thrashed them 4-0 in the group stages of the 2004 AFCON in Tunisia.
Radebe, who helped South Africa win the 1996 AFCON, believes Bafana have a great opportunity ahead.
“You know we beat, is it twice? We beat them once away, 2-0 in the first leg,” said Radebe, who earned 70 caps and scored twice for Bafana.
“So, obviously that can be done, but I know they won’t just let that happen. That is going to make it interesting and hard for us, especially at home, because the expectation from us and the fans is that in order for Bafana to be successful they have to beat Nigeria first.
“Beating Nigeria, we know that we are on the right track. And surely the fans will start believing and have faith if we play well and beat teams like Nigeria.
“It is also a great opportunity on the weekend where Nigeria is coming here with the strongest squad. Obviously, on paper, brilliant. But we have our good players as well, the quality that is up-and-coming.
“So the opportunity is there for those boys to make a name for themselves,” concluded the retired ex-Bafana and Leeds United skipper.