Nigeria renew their rivalry against South Africa when the two sides clash in the quarterfinals of the 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations on Wednesday at the Cairo International Stadium. ‘
The two sides saw off the challenge of the last two finalists in Cameroon and Egypt respectively. The Super Eagles got the better of the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon in an enthralling encounter at the Alexandria Stadium last Saturday. Odion Ighalo’s brace and Alex Iwobi winner secured victory for Nigeria over the defending champions.
The Bafana Bafana meanwhile, stunned hosts and tournament favourite Egypt same day at the Cairo stadium. The 1996 champions shocked the seven-time winners courtesy of a well-taken goal by Lorch.
Both Bafana Bafana and Super Eagles will go into the quarter-final with full confidence following their exploits in the round of 16. The two sides met in the qualifiers for the tournament with South Africa earning a surprise 2-0 win in Uyo before playing out a draw in the return leg at the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg. South Africa who are known for their defensive and counter-attacking style in this competition are set to go all out against the Super Eagles.
In the group stages, the Bafana Bafana showed too much respect towards Ivory Coast and Morocco by setting up defensively, something they won’t do against Nigeria.
And that begs the question of how Super Eagles should approach the game. Bar the second half of the clash against Cameroon, the Super Eagles have been conservative in their approach to games at the competition.
That’s down to the tactics of Rohr who believes in stability first before flair and that has stunted the creativity of the team. In the first two matches of the competition, the Super Eagles had to rely on the help of their defenders to secure victory.
The German tactician believes in solidity over attacking freedom and that showed in the team’s group stage matches. While the conservative approach may have worked for him so far, he needs to know when to switch things up by allowing the team to play more freely.
This was evident in the team’s second-half performance against the Indomitable Lions. The Super Eagles were relaxed in the first half and that showed as Cameroon went into the break with the lead.
But a shuffle up front in the second half allowed Nigeria to play with more urgency. The German tactician brought on Villarreal youngster Samuel Chukwueze for the ineffective Moses Simon who Rohr’s favourite because of his defensive abilities.
Nevertheless, it was Chukwueze’s introduction that sparked a turn around for Nigeria as they scored two quickfire goals. The Villarreal’s introduction injected a little bit of creativity in Super Eagles game, something that was lacking in the first half.
Rohr should also know how to adapt his tactics based on Super Eagles opponents. Against South Africa, Super Eagles face a side who are not really blessed with quality. Nigeria, on the other hand, are blessed with some of the best attackers on the continent.
And it’s for that reason, Rohr should allow the team to play with freedom for once. South Africa’s defence will find it difficult to cope with the threat of our frontline if the former Bordeaux manager allows his team to play with more freedom.
Although an all-out attack makes Eagles vulnerable to the counter-attacking threat of South Africa, the Eagles have enough firepower to score enough goals that will guarantee victory.
The team showed that last time out where they scored three times for the first time in the competition. They are capable of repeating that feat against an inferior side in South Africa but only Rohr unleash the beast in the team by allowing them to play freely.
Over to you Mr Gernot Rohr.