Nigeria vs South Africa confirmed XI: Onuachu starts ahead of Boniface

Finidi George has named his first starting line-up as the substantive head coach of the Nigeria national team ahead of Friday’s crucial 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying game against South Africa.

Stanley Nwabali, Semi Ajayi, Wilfred Ndidi, and Kelechi Iheanacho are part of the Super Eagles’ starting line-up as they aim to record their first win in the World Cup qualifiers. Nigeria are currently winless in the qualifiers, having drawn with both Zimbabwe and Lesotho in their opening two matches.

The Super Eagles are, however, a point behind South Africa who have also garnered three points from their two qualifying games so far. Hugo Broos’ side made a bright start to their qualifying campaign when they defeated Benin 2-1 but were humbled at the hands of Rwanda in their next game.

The upcoming clash between Nigeria and South Africa could produce a new leader in Group C following Lesotho’s surprise 0-2 win over Zimbabwe earlier on Friday. The Crocodiles have, therefore, moved to the top of the group with five points, albeit temporarily, depending on the result of the game between Nigeria and South Africa.

How the Super Eagles will line up against South Africa

Finidi seems to have opted for a 4-3-3 formation, with Nwabali chosen ahead of Maduka Okoye in the post. The back four is made up of Semi Ajayi, Benjamin Tanimu, Calvin Bassey and Bright Osayi-Samuel.

Alex Iwobi, Wilfred Ndidi and Fisayo Dele-Bashiru have been tasked with giving Nigeria an edge in the middle of the park, with Kelechi Iheanacho and Ademola Lookman flanking Paul Onuachu, who has been given the nod over Victor Boniface as the Super Eagles’ centre-forward.

Finidi’s set-up suggests Nigeria will look to dominate the game, while they could also be dangerous in the half-spaces due to the pace and quick movement of Lookman and Iheanacho.

Here's Nigeria's starting line-up vs South Africa:

Stanley Nwabali

Semi Ajayi

Calvin Bassey

Bright Osayi-Samuel

Benjamin Tanimu

Wilfred Ndidi

Alex Iwobi

Fisayo Dele-Bashiru

Kelechi Iheanacho

Ademola Lookman

Paul Onuachu

How South Africa will line up against the Super Eagles

Meanwhile, Hugo Broos has also picked a line-up that is very similar to the one that faced Nigeria in the semi-finals of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in the Ivory Coast.

Ronwen Williams is the man between the sticks, while Siyabonga Ngezana, Mothobi Mvala, Aubrey Modiba and Khuliso Mudau are tasked with protecting the defence.

In midfield, Teboho Mokoena and Sphephelo Sithole will play as a double pivot, with Percy Tau, Themba Zwane and Elias Mokwana supporting Iqraam Rayners as the lead striker.

Bafana Bafana will be targeting revenge against Nigeria when they face the Super Eagles at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo, having lost to the hosts four months ago at the AFCON. Broos and his side also have the chance to move to the top of the group if they beat the Super Eagles.

Here’s how South Africa will line up against the Super Eagles:

Ronwen Williams

Siyabonga Ngezana

Mothobi Mvala

Aubrey Modiba

Khuliso Mudau

Teboho Mokoena

Sphephelo Sithole

Themba Zwane

Elias Mokwana

Iqraam Rayners

Nigeria vs South Africa confirmed XI: Onuachu starts ahead of Boniface
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.