Nigeria vs S. Africa Preview: Fifa World Cup qualifier

The two African heavyweights meet once again in a crucial fixture which might determine who will play in the 2026 World Cup

Match Background: Will the Super Eagles get first win in their pool against hungry Bafana?

Nigeria come into Group C match of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers desperate for victory after sharing spoils in their last two outings.

A well represented Nigeria drew 1-1 with Lesotho in their first game in the pool before registering the same result against Zimbabwe. The Super Eagles are the favorites to top the group but the initial result cast doubt in their ability at the same time instilling confidence to the likes of South Africa.

Bafana Bafana recorded a 2-1 win in their first game of the group against Benin but suffered a shock 2-1 loss away to Rwanda.

This is a match the Hugo Broos-led team will be determined to win or at least get a point to sustain their push for a place in the prestigious global competition to be hosted jointly by the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Head-to-head – Will Bafana avenge the 2023 Afcon heartbreak?

The Super Eagles have been a tricky opponent for the Southern Africa nation. In the last five meetings across all competitions, either side has managed one win in regulation time.

After drawing 1-1 in an international friendly game staged at Mbombela Stadium on March 29, 2015, the two nations were pooled together in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier. 

Bafana managed to get a 2-0 win away with the return match ending 1-1.

However, during the 2019 Afcon in Egypt, the two nations met in the quarter finals where the Super Eagles claimed a 2-1 win to advance.

South Africa players Afcon

Just four months ago, the rivalry was re-generated in the semi final of the biennial competition, whereby either side managed to get a goal in regulation time. Neither managed to get the winner in extra time. 

In the shootout, Nigeria, once again, broke the hearts of the Bafana faithful after claiming a 4-2 win to advance and eventually win silverware with hosts Ivory Coast claiming gold.

What they said – Broos adamant loss will not be disaster but Ajayi insists Nigeria are focused on winning

Bafana coach Broos stated his team is not going into the match aiming at avenging the Afcon loss, but is optimistic of getting something from it.

“We want to have a good result against Nigeria because this is a qualifier for the World Cup and we don’t think about revenge,” Broos told the media ahead of the match.

Hugo Broos of Bafana Bafana

“Losing the game should not be a disaster because after that we still have six games to play. But I would rather not have a defeat to Nigeria. We know all about them but they also know all about us. 

“I think they will not start the game with the same mentality they had at Afcon because they know how strong we are.”

West Bromwich Albion defender Semi Ajayi is going for nothing less than a win, but says Super Eagles will have to dig deeper for the win.

“It will be a tough game; they gave us a real challenge at the AFCON, and we are expecting nothing less.  

“But we are definitely prepared and determined to do everything we can to secure the win,” he said in a presser.

Players to watch: Who will make a difference in Uyo?

The Super Eagles will rely on Ademola Lookman for goals and opportunities to score after having a productive campaign in Europe with Serie A outfit Atalanta.

Ademola Lookman of Nigeria

The winger scored a hattrick to help the Italian side defeat Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League final.

In the absence of Napoli hit-man Victor Osimhen, Victor Boniface is expected to lead the attack for the hosts. 

The bulky striker scored 14 goals and had eight assists in the Bundesliga meaning he has what it takes to deliver.

Bafana Bafana will once again rely on their captain Ronwen Williams to provide leadership and organization at the back.

The Mamelodi Sundowns shot-stopper will be needed to be alert at all times to stand a chance of stopping the dangerous Super Eagles’ attackers.

Lyle Foster Bafana Bafana

Burnley striker Lyle Foster made the team after controversially missing the 2023 Afcon. Pressure is on him to deliver, and with all the qualities he possesses, surely, the 23-year-old can fire South Africa to their second win in Group C.

Probable XI: How might the teams start?

Nigeria probable XI:  Stanley Nwabali, Bright Osayi-Samuel, Semi Ajayi, Calvin Bassey, Sodiq Ismail, Wilfred Ndidi, Frank Onyeka, Alex Iwobi, Victor Boniface, Ademola Lookman, Paul Onuachu.

South Africa probable XI: Ronwen Williams, Aubrey Modiba, Khuliso Mudau, Mothobi Mvala, Siyabonga Ngezana, Teboho Mokoena, Spephelo Sithole, Bathusi Aubaas, Lyle Foster, Percy Tau, Themba Zwane

Nigeria vs S. Africa Preview: Fifa World Cup qualifier
Willis Sob

Willis Sob is an experienced journalist who has been in the game since 2009, covering major assignments around the continent.
His hunger for African football is unmatched, always getting the best angles and facts to feed the fans and quench their thirst.