Nigeria take on South Africa in the second quarter final during this year’s Copa America, hosted by Egypt. After coming second in Group B behind Madagascar by a single point, Nigeria then eliminated Cameroon from the tournament by winning 3-2. South Africa’s story is rather different and in many ways, heartening. They ended the group stage in third, three points from Ivory Coast in second and qualifying for the Last 16 by the skin of their teeth having lost twice already. However, a shock victory over Egypt has seen them through to this round and now they’ll believe anything is possible.
Nigeria began this journey with a win over Burundi first time around by one goal to nil, which was succeeded by another 1-0 win, this time against Guinea at the Alexandria Stadium. If Nigeria had come out on top versus Madagascar on the final day of group games, they would have topped the standings. However Madagascar proved to be overpowering for Nigeria and went on to hand their opponents a first loss of the AFCON as Lalaina Nomenjanahary and Carolus Andriamahitsinoro got on the scoresheet in either half. Cameroon were the opposition next, and former Watford striker Odion Ighalo provided his team with an early lead under twenty minutes in, only for Stephane Bahoken and Clinton N’Jie to bag within three minutes on each other and put Cameroon in the driving seat going into the interval. With sixty three minutes played, Ighalo again rescued his team as he got Nigeria on level terms, and three minutes later Arsenal man Alex Iwobi grabbed the all important third to see his country through to this stage.
In their opener, South Africa were beaten by Ivory Coast 1-0, which was a terrible way to start the tournament. Namibia were their next opponents and this time South Africa were ready to take three vital points. It took until the second half, but when the goal from Bongani Zungu came it was worth it, with pacey winger Percy Tau assisting on that occasion. A final day defeat versus the now-eliminated Morocco pushed South Africa into third as Mbark Boussoufa got the winning strike with just minutes left on the clock, breaking South African hearts. That result meant that South Africa had to overcome the unenviable task of knocking out Egypt, the host nation. Fortunately for them, Egypt were horrendous on the night and in spite of some good chances missed, South Africa eventually scored with Thembinkosi Lorch getting the goal. A second victory under their belts and victors over the hosts, South Africa will now feel as though they can beat anybody.
Former Chelsea stalwart John Obi Mikel could be forced to the sidelines due to a knee injury, however he should return in time for any later fixtures should his side progress. We can see Nigeria lining up similarly to how they did against Cameroon in a 4-2-3-1 as it allowed their attackers to flourish. Daniel Akpeyi will start as number one, with William Troost-Ekong and Kenneth Omeruo in front of him. Oghenekaro Etebo will partner Leicester City midfielder Wilfred Ndidi in the middle of the park, supporting forwards Moses Simon, Alex Iwobi and Ahmed Musa. As a lone striker, we can expect Odion Ighalo to keep his spot up front.
South Africa don’t appear to have any injury doubts going into this clash which is a great boost for the camp, as everyone will be determined to be part of this adventure. Against Egypt they were fantastic, particularly from wide areas and cutting inside, so the 4-3-3 they utilized on that day is likely to appear again here. Ronwen Williams as the ever present goalkeeper behind a back line of Thamsanqa Mkhize, Thulani Hlatshwayo, Buhle Mkhwanazi and Sifiso Hlanti. Further up the park, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Bongani Zungu and Dean Furman should make up a three man midfield, with Percy Tau, Lebo Mothiba and the hero of the Last 16 Lorch as attackers.
Neither of these two have been particularly prolific in front of goal up to now, although Nigeria displayed their attacking talent in the win over Cameroon with three goals. Nigeria have kept two clean sheets and scored five times, whereas South Africa kept the same amount of clean sheets and netted just twice, shipping on two occasions too. We can see both teams getting in on the act on Wednesday, so Bet365’s offer of 11/8 for BTTS is our first tip. There has to be a winner, whether that be in normal time, extra time or penalties. Nigeria and South Africa have already proven their winning qualities, but this time we expect Nigeria to come out on top and at 9/2 for BTTS and Nigeria to win, we can’t ignore those odds. It will be a tight affair with both sides hoping to cling on to their spot in the AFCON, and with the pair both winning by a solitary goal during the course of the summer, Nigeria to win by one goal at 12/5 is a price we can’t turn down.