Nigeria vs South Africa: 5 things we learned from Super Eagles’ disappointing stalemate

The Super Eagles remain winless in the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers after being held to a draw by South Africa on Friday evening.

Hugo Broos’ side stunned the hosts when Themba Zwane put them ahead right before the half-hour mark, but the Super Eagles rallied their way back courtesy of a strong second half, with the game ending in a 1-1 stalemate after Fisayo Dele-Bashiru restored parity early in the second half.

Here are five talking points from Nigeria’s 1-1 draw with South Africa.

Tanimu’s right-back experiment backfires

Injuries to key players prevented Finidi George from selecting his strongest back four, so the 53-year-old had to settle for a makeshift backline with Benjamin Tanimu at right-back.

The Ihefu SC defender, primarily a centre-back, struggled for large spells and contributed little to the Super Eagles’ attack.

Tanimu, 21, might have a future with the national team, but his performance against South Africa should end his experimentation at right-back.

Second-half chaos played to Nigeria’s advantage

The Super Eagles made a great start to the match and clearly intended to dominate possession against Bafana, but the dynamics of the game quickly changed as Hugo Broos set up his team to be disciplined and compact.

Things we learned from Super Eagles' disappointing draw with Bafana Bafana
Photo by Icon Sport

In the end, it was a game of two halves: South Africa had their moments in the first while Nigeria took over in the second. The second period was particularly chaotic after both teams cared little about shape when searching for the winner.

This naturally was to the Super Eagles’ benefit due to their superior quality. On another day, Finidi’s side could have edged it based on their second-half dominance, but the result was not far from what they deserved.

Hugo Broos’ Bafana Bafana are trouble

South Africa have now given Nigeria two of their toughest matches in the last four months following their meeting in the semi-final of the 2023 AFCON. Under Broos, Bafana Bafana have become formidable even against opponents of superior quality.

Things we learned from Super Eagles' disappointing draw with Bafana Bafana
Photo by Icon Sport

It’s hard enough to beat a team that has character but it’s even more difficult when said team are also disciplined and clear in their ideas. That is exactly what South Africa are under Broos, and Nigeria won’t be the last team that they trouble.

Finidi’s game management needs work

While Finidi’s team looked balanced on paper before the game, his game management exposed him when the going got tough.

His decision to pick Paul Onuachu over Victor Boniface in his starting line-up was baffling, and replacing Dele-Bashiru with Yusuf Alhassan, a player whose skillset is valuable but was not needed at that point in the game, did not suggest a good reader of the game.

Super Eagles down, but not entirely out after 3 qualifying matches

Finally, Nigeria may be down after recording no wins from three World Cup qualifying matches but they are not entirely out yet.

The Super Eagles currently occupy fifth position in Group C, just a point above bottom-placed Zimbabwe, but they are also only two points away from group leaders Lesotho, which means they could be back in contention if they beat Benin on Monday.

Nigeria vs South Africa: 5 things we learned from Super Eagles’ disappointing stalemate
Emmanuel Ayamga

Emmanuel Ayamga is a Ghanaian journalist with a little over five years of experience writing about African football.

His articles and features have been published in renowned news media like Pulse Ghana, The Guardian, DW, Al Jazeera and Sportskeeda. His bylines can also be found in the UK journals World Soccer Magazine and These Football Times.