Super Eagles celebrate goal against South Africa
Nigeria
managed a draw, 1-1 against South Africa in the AFCON qualifiers on Saturday
but there were seven things that popped up, some were there to see long before
the game, others we saw as the game wore on.

Games between Nigeria and South Africa have always been heated, right from 1992
when the Eagles won 4-0 in Lagos and this one was no different. What are these
7 things?
1 South Africa was
going to play better
Of
the thirteen times Nigeria had previously met South Africa at senior
international level, Nigeria won 7, drew 4 and lost 2.
However,
it was not every time Nigeria beat South Africa that the Eagles actually
outplayed the Bafana.
In
fact, asides the 4-0 win in Lagos in 1992, the 2-0 win at the AFCON semifinal
in 2000 and the 4-0 win at the AFCON in 2004, every time both countries met, it
seemed the Eagles were outplayed by the Bafana.
Nigeria,
however would find a way to survive and most times win, through pace, strength
and determination, rather than a peculiar style, tactics or technical
superiority.
It
was not different at the FNB Stadium on Saturday as the South Africans had most
of the play, but as usual were not brave enough to go for the jugular of the
Nigerians.
Like
Stuart Baxter said, his players were not brave enough to go for a win.
Though
their defence seemed shaky every time Nigeria had the ball, the South African
midfield and attack seemed every comfortable and there were jitters for one
hundred million Nigerians anytime Percy Tau had the ball.
2 Iwobi is trying
too hard to be number 10
 

Alex Iwobi played well in the first half

The
“10” is arguably the most popular number in a football team and this is largely
due to the legends who have worn it.
It
was made most popular by Brazilian Pele and has also been worn by the likes of
Zico, Diego Maradona, Ruud Gullit, Ronaldinho etc.
The
“10” is beyond a number but a role on the pitch, which is the Playmaker role, attacking
midfielder, Trequartista, Enganche,  etc,
but for Africans and South Americans, there is a particular style of play
attached to playing this role that bears a heavy burden on whoever is in it.
To
a number 10, you must have the ability to control the attacking play of your
team through deft passing moves, clear vision, incredible technique and ball
control as well as creativity, basically, the skill to show boat almost every
time the ball is at your feet.

In Nigeria, from Haruna Ilerika to Henry Nwosu, Sam Okwaraji, Etim Esin to
Austin Okocha, there are levels of ball tricks and showboating expected from
you when you have the ball at your feet and that may have been the bane of Alex
Iwobi against South Africa on Saturday. He was trying too hard.
He
had a good first half but his second half was almost disastrous as he lost the
ball at his feet, gave away passes to the opponents, and put the Super Eagles
in trouble a couple of times.
One
game does make a bad player, but Iwobi must know that he can only be Alex Iwobi
and not his uncle, Jay Jay Okocha or any other person. Sometimes it seems like
he gets carried away in a game. He could have cost Nigeria the game on
Saturday. At some point in the game, fatigue and weather affected not just him
but most of the team so he should have kept it simple by distributing the balls
as soon as it got to him.
3 Like 1993, like
2018
John Ogu confirms the weather was a factor
In
1993, the confidence of the Super Eagles was sky high. The team was so sure
that they could beat anyone on the continent, and did that more often than not.
When
Nigeria had a date with South Africa in the 2nd leg of the 1994
World Cup qualifiers, the game was to be played at the First National Bank, FNB
Stadium in Johannesburg and there was a reason for this.
Clemens
Westerhof put out a four man attack of Victor Ikpeba, Samson Siasia, Rashidi
Yekini and Daniel Amokachi (I wondered then what he was thinking then and even
now) hoping to overwhelm the hosts, but after the goalless first half, the
altitude began to take its toll on the players as the 2nd half was a
complete drag for the Eagles while the South Africans failed to strike the
killer punch. Goalless it ended, but the Eagles were the luckier of the two
sides.
For
most of the second period Nigeria just held on as the front men obviously no
longer had the lungs to fall back and defend. Friday Ekpo and Emeka Ezeugo
worked extra hard on the day to keep the Eagles alive.
Enter
2018, the game was taken to the FNB again, and after a first half that ended
1-1, the altitude took its toll on the Eagles as they barely made it to the end
of the game. Alex Iwobi gave out balls carelessly, the Eagles defence was
caught flatfooted more than once, Kelechi Iheanacho, Oghenekaro Etebo and their
mates became anonymous. It was not exactly the fault of the players.
John
Ogu, told NigerianFootballer.com that the weather affected the team as they
were not used to it.
“We
were all affected by the weather and for me, I felt my throat was dry. My team
mates had similar complaints while the game was on.
“This
is not an excuse for not winning the game but all these little things count. The
weather took its toll on us,” Ogu said.
John
Ogu did not have to say this. We all knew while watching the game. There was a
reason the game was taken to the First National Bank Stadium in Johannesburg
and it worked for the home team.
4 Like 1993 like
2018 (2)
 

Offside? Ask the referees

The
altitude was not the only similarity between the 0-0 in 1993 and the 1-1 in
2018.
In
1993, Rashidi Yekini latched on a back pass by a South African defender,
rounded the goalkeeper and scored, but surprisingly the flag went up for off
side, how?
In
2018, twice Nigeria scored, and twice the flag went up for offside, goals that
were clearly onside, how?
In
1993, the referees ensured South Africa did not lose, either by design or error
and the same thing happened in 2018, twice.
5 Few people thought
Nigeria would not win
Before
Saturday’s game there had been 4 previous draws between Nigeria and South
Africa, but the optimism from fans of the Super Eagles and football writers too
was sky high.
Nine
out of ten people from the Nigerian side of the divide would have clearly given
the Super Eagles a win without batting an eyelid.

We should have seen the possibility of a draw? Before the game Nigeria had
beaten Seychelles, away, done the same to Libya, home and away and beaten
Liberia in Monrovia. The Eagles were back, surely?
But
no, Percy Tau, the referees and the altitude happened. A draw turned out a good
result for Nigeria as it ensured qualification for the AFCON, the Eagles first
since 2013.

6 Nigeria qualifying
again with one game to play
When
the Super Eagles lost to South Africa in Uyo in 2017 and the turmoil Nigerian
football was in at the time, it would have been difficult to believe that
Nigeria would qualify for the AFCON, much less with a full game to play.
With
the structure changing from a 16 to 24 team format, qualification was made
easier, but only a few diehards would have thought, three months ago that
Nigeria would qualify for the 2019 AFCON with a game to go.
Wins
over Seychelles, Libya (home and away) and of course, a result in Johannesburg
ensured this. 
The
Super Eagles were certainly not in their best on Saturday, but they did the
business and will be playing in the AFCON for the first time since 2013. Who would
have thunk it?
7 Lack of interest
from the South African fans
The
game was moved to a 90000 capacity stadium for basically two reasons- the
altitude and the fans who would have been expected to intimidate the Eagles
with their presence.
However,
while the altitude did its bit, the fans stayed away as the home FA failed to
sell even a quarter of the tickets for the game, much unlike in 1993 when it
was a full house.
Games
between Nigeria and South Africa, no matter the venue should not lack fans in
the stadium. This surely shows how the Bafana Bafana fans rate their home team.
The Soweto derby would surely fill up the same stadium.
Please Feel free
to disagree in the comments section

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