The Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast finally nears its climax with four fixtures left to be played this week – the semi-finals, the third-place playoff match and the final match.
The stakes are now higher because any slip-up could spell doom not just for the squad members of each national team represented but for the millions of supporters looking to have solid bragging rights over the other as they hope to be crowned African champions.
Special attention is being paid to the two semi-final pairings happening in Bouake and Abidjany on Wednesday, February 7.
Inside the Stade de la Paix, the Super Eagles of Nigeria will be looking to continue their dominance against Bafana Bafana of South Africa when the first semi-final gets underway, with both teams contending for a place in the final of AFCON 2024.
Wednesday’s game will be the 15th clash between both countries at full international level.
Nigeria have won seven of the previous 14 matches, with five of those matches drawn and two won by South Africa.
These are two familiar foes and have also been drawn in together in the World Cup qualifying group.
Nigeria vs South Africa combined XI
With a potential blockbuster on Wednesday evening, Afrik-Foot has compiled a combined XI of the best players from Nigeria and South Africa.
Star goalkeepers: Stanley Nwabali or Ronwen Williams
Between the record-breaking Ronwen Williams and the solidly assured Stanley Nwabali, it was a real contest picking the one that starts in goal but in the end, the Nigerian earned his spot in our combined XI.
The Chippa United goalie has only conceded one goal and has kept back-to-back clean sheets since his team’s second group game against Ivory Coast up until the quarter-final win over Angola.
It's worth mentioning that Williams made history by becoming the first goalkeeper in the history of the competition to make four saves in a penalty shootout. Still, he has seen his defence breached twice in the group opener against quarter-finalists Mali.
Interestingly, for both teams, since conceding in the opening group games, they have kept clean sheets from open play in all the games leading to the semis.
Kudos to the defensive set-up by both coaches, and it’s okay to balance our backline with a pair of defenders from both countries.
Alongside William Troost-Ekong and Calvin Bassey, Mothobi Mvala and Grant Kekana are welcomed into the back four, the pair from Mamelodi Sundowns have a good understanding and it is being put into effective use for Hugo Broos’ side.
Midfield dynamos: Alex Iwobi or Teboho Mokoena?
One of them would take the creative mantle when it's meant to be used in this team, South Africa’s Mokoena has been having a fine tournament and he’s also been effective in that role. The ability to see him take advantage of set-pieces has made him a potent weapon in the South Africa team.
Alex Iwobi has been a big part of the national team’s coach plan, but even in the roles he plays for both club and country, Iwobi’s uniqueness, eye for passes, and help to dictate an attack have made him one of the stars to watch out for.
Such has been their influence, we couldn't split them, so both Iwobi and Mokoena will feature in our Nigeria vs South Africa combined XI.
Influential forwards: Ademola Lookman or Percy Tau?
Ademola Lookman admitted feeling pressure anytime he wears the national jersey but hasn't shown it so far in this tournament – scoring three goals in the knockouts.
South Africa need all of Percy Tau’s exposure and experience, especially on the African scene, to translate such into the national side. The former gets the nod ahead of the latter in our combined XI.
Nigeria vs South Africa combined XI
- Stanley Nwabali
- Calvin Bassey
- William Troost-Ekong
- Mothobi Mvala
- Grant Kekana
- Alex Iwobi
- Frank Onyeka
- Teboho Mokoena
- Ademola Lookman
- Moses Simon
- Victor Osimhen