The Super Eagles of Nigeria will be making their 16th appearance in an Africa Cup of Nations semi-final when they take on Bafana Bafana of South Africa on Wednesday, 7 February, in Bouake, Ivory Coast.
Led by head coach Jose Peseiro, Nigeria had put in a solid performance at the 34th edition that has seen the team stay compact, pretty strong and exhibited tactical discipline across all five games played so far – that run had seen the side concede just one goal and score six.
The wins against Ivory Coast in the group stage and a convincing win over Cameroon in the Round of 16, backed by the deserved win over Angola in the last round, have made the Super Eagles the favourites going into the business end of the competition.
South Africa, on the other hand, had to endure a 24-year absence from this stage before recording this feat in the same competition this year.
Led by the experienced Hugo Broos, who guided Cameroon to the AFCON 2017 title in Gabon, Bafana Bafana finished second in the group stage behind Mali but ahead of Namibia and Algeria.
They caused a major stir in Round 16, going against all odds to knock out tournament favourites and last FIFA World Cup semi-finalists Morocco.
The team stayed resolute against giant killers Cape Verde in the last round on penalties, with the captain and goalkeeper of the side, Ronwen Williams, making history in the shootout when he made four saves – the first to achieve such a feat in AFCON history.
As it stands, being the most experienced team left at this stage, the Super Eagles could take their trophy count to four, putting them on par with West African rivals Ghana and one behind another fierce rival, Cameroon.
South Africa, meanwhile, have one trophy to their name – won on home soil in 1996.
Egypt hold the record for the most AFCON wins at seven.
When Ivory Coast hosted the AFCON in 1984, Nigeria also played its semi-final game against Egypt in the city of Bouake.
History showed that the game was going the way of the Egyptians who were already 2-0 up in the first 30 minutes before Stephen Keshi pulled one back from the penalty spot and then set up Bala Ali for the equaliser in the second half. Nigeria eventually won the ensuing penalty shootout 8-7 to advance to the final against Cameroon.
Nigeria vs South Africa in history
Nigeria hold the advantage against South Africa, having registered six wins in 11 previous matches, with South Africa recording just one win (friendlies excluded). In the history of the Africa Cup of Nations, Nigeria have triumphed in all the games.
Since Nigeria won the title in 2013 on South African soil, the country have only managed to reach the last four once.
In fact, the Super Eagles have lost five of their last six AFCON semi-finals, while South Africa are back in their first semi-final since AFCON 2000, co-hosted by Nigeria and Ghana.
Bafana Bafana are also facing the same opponents they played 24 years ago in the semi-finals but will be hoping for a different outcome in Ivory Coast.
Nigeria vs South Africa at AFCON – Super Eagles fly high
Ahead of Wednesday's blockbuster clash, we look back at three times when the Super Eagles got the better of Bafana Bafana.
Nigeria vs South Africa, February 2000 – Super Eagles in 2-0
In 2000, the two sides met at the national stadium in Lagos for a spot in the final. Backed by a raucous crowd, Nigeria took an early lead when Tijani Babangida, who was running down the left flank, cut inside with a pace and unexpectedly unleashed a low, right-foot shot from the edge of the area into the bottom-right corner past Andre Arendse in goal.
He later latched on to a cross in the 18-yard box when he was left unmarked and curled the ball past the goalkeeper into the top corner in the 34th minute of the first half. His brace on the night was enough to propel the co-host to a convincing win and into the final.
That was the only time they have met at the penultimate stage of the Africa Cup of Nations.
Nigeria vs South Africa, January 2004 – Super Eagles in 4-0
Hosted by Tunisia, Nigeria needed to bounce back following an opening match day defeat to Morocco that was also marred by some off-field issues while South Africa were coming off a win over Benin Republic.
Events leading up to the game saw the suspension of three players – Celestine Babayaro, Yakubu Aiyegbeni and Victor Agali – from the squad after flouting camp rules when they stayed out late at a nightclub.
According to the then Nigerian Sports minister, they were only going to be reinstated when the team confirmed their place in the knockout stages.
The game played in Monastir saw Nigeria spank Bafana Bafana 4-0, including the opener from defender Joseph Yobo, whose goal came from the first corner-kick played in by Jay-Jay Okocha in the fourth minute to settle some nerves in the Nigeria team.
The provider of the first goal then scored from the penalty spot in the second half to register Nigeria's second goal and was presented with a special award for scoring the 1,000th goal of the Africa Cup of Nations in that encounter.
Second-half substitute Osaze Odemwingie scored Nigeria's third and fourth with a spectacular left-foot strike from Okocha's pass and finishing off a cross from John Utaka, respectively, to close out the game. The win eventually got Nigeria's campaign in Tunisia back on track.
Nigeria vs South Africa, Egypt 2019 – Super Eagles win 2-1
This tie was the last AFCON meeting, and it was in the quarter-finals, with Williams Troost-Ekong scoring a late goal to seal Nigeria's place in the last four. The encounter had seen the Nigerian side make miss several good opportunities and should have buried the game before allowing the South Africans in.
Samuel Chukwueze had opened the scoring in the 27th minute. Still, Nigeria were made to pay for missed chances when Bongani Zungu equalised in the 71st minute – the goal was given after a review by VAR in what could be described as the first major usage of the technology in the tournament as it was only introduced in the quarter-finals.
And with extra time looming, Nigeria won a corner on the left flank that was missed by the goalkeeper and Troost Ekong was there to drive it home late on. The 2-1 scoreline earned the Super Eagles a semi-final tie against eventual winners Algeria.
With the chance to play in the final and emerge the new African champions inside the new Alassane Ouattara Stadium on February 11, there is a lot at stake in the latest grudge match on Wednesday between both sides that will take place inside the Stade de la Paix in Bouake.