In preparation for the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against fierce rivals Nigeria, South Africa’s Bafana Bafana are set to engage in four crucial friendly matches, Soccernet.ng reports.
The World Cup qualifying draw placed Nigeria and South Africa in Group C, alongside Zimbabwe, Benin, Rwanda, and Lesotho.
The South Africa Football Association (SAFA) has planned a series of warm-up matches to get the Bafana Bafana in top shape ahead of the challenges.
The 1996 AFCON winners will kick off their preparations with a friendly tie against Namibia on September 9th, followed by encounters with DR Congo on September 12th and Eswatini on October 13th. The final friendly will see the Hugo Broos-led team travelling to Ivory Coast, the hosts of the 2024 African Nations Cup, for a match on October 17th.
SAFA’s CEO, Lydia Monyepao, announced this development, stating (as per News24), “These matches are in support of Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos as he continues his preparation for the Africa Cup of Nations in the beginning of next year, and the start of the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in November this year.”
South Africa, alongside Nigeria, are seen as the favourite to secure the sole qualifying ticket from Group C, which also includes Zimbabwe, Benin, Rwanda, and Lesotho.
The qualifiers are scheduled to commence in November this year and extend until 2025.
Reflecting on their historical achievements, Bafana Bafana secured the African champions title in 1996 and were runners-up in 1998.
On the other hand, Nigeria boast a more successful record in the African Cup of Nations, having clinched the title three times in 1980, 1994, and 2013.
Turning the spotlight onto the grand stage of the FIFA World Cup, South Africa’s qualification history reveals their last appearance dating back to 2002, barring the 2010 edition when they qualified as hosts.
South Africa failed to qualify for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
Similarly, Nigeria, present in Russia 2018, missed the last edition.
The 2026 FIFA World Cup, to be jointly hosted by Canada, Mexico, and the United States, provides an opportunity for one of South Africa or Nigeria to be a part of the biggest edition of the event in history.