The former Paris Saint Germain playmaker represented Nigeria at three different editions of the Mundial, helping the Super Eagles reach the knockout rounds on two of those occasions
Super Eagles legend Austin Okocha has pointed out why Nigeria and South Africa failed to kick off their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying journey with maximum points, Soccernet.ng reports
Nigeria stumbled to two disappointing 1-1 draws with Lesotho and Zimbabwe to muster just two points from a possible six.
South Africa began their adventure with a narrow 2-1 win over Gernot Rohr’s Benin Republic but suffered a surprise 2-0 defeat away to Rwanda.
While former African champions Nigeria and South Africa were tipped as favourites to pick the World Cup ticket in Group C, it is Rwanda who occupy the top spot with four wins after two games.
South Africa’s Bafana Bafana are second with three points, while Nigeria’s Super Eagles sit in third place with two points.
Okocha is unimpressed with the performances of Nigeria and South Africa.
The former Bolton Wanderers playmaker is convinced that the long-time rivalry between the two African giants distracted them from the threats posed by the other teams in their group.
“We [Nigeria and South Africa] didn’t get off to a good start and I can say that we are lucky that Bafana Bafana lost their second game,” Okocha said, per Sunday World.
“I think we are focusing more on the rivalry between South Africa and Nigeria instead of focusing on qualifying. It’s a big surprise that Rwanda is topping the group.
“So, I think we [Nigeria and South Africa need to] change the mindset and focus on the qualification instead of focusing on our rivalry.”
The immediate concern for Nigeria and South Africa is the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, which kicks off on January 13 in Ivory Coast.
After the AFCON, the focus will shift back to the World Cup qualifiers, where Nigeria’s next opponents will be South Africa.
The Super Eagles will host the Bafana Bafana in June on matchday three, where a win could see the three-time AFCON winners return to the top of the league standings.