Nigeria and South Africa will, on Wednesday, February 7, play for the chance to appear in the final of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, Soccernet.ng reports.
The Super Eagles and Bafana Bafana are two of the four nations left at the 34th edition of the AFCON after three weeks of the most exhilarating football ever witnessed on the continent.
To get to this stage, Nigeria drew 1-1 with Equatorial Guinea and claimed straightforward victories over hosts Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Cameroon, and Angola.
South Africa, on the other hand, lost 0-2 to Mali in their opener, defeated Namibia, and drew with Tunisia before stunning favourites Morocco and knocking out Cape Verde via penalties.
Ahead of their semifinal clash at the Stade de la Paix, Bouake, Soccernet.ng’s Imhons Erons presents the combined Best XI whose contributions have brought their teams this far.
Nigeria’s Stanley Nwabali and South Africa’s Ronwen Williams have both kept four consecutive clean sheets at this tournament.
Nwabali would have edged this head-to-head as he has only conceded one goal compared to Williams’ two.
However, Williams was the biggest star of the quarterfinals after stopping four Cape Verde penalties – the first time anyone has managed such in any major international competitions.
GK – Williams
Khuliso Mudau was poor against Mali and had probably his best game against Cape Verde in a match where the Blue Sharks completely outclassed the Bafana Bafana.
Ola Aina has, however, been Mr Consistent for Nigeria, churning out one fine performance after another.
He has been deployed as a wing-back, combining both right-back and right-winger duties, and he has not been found wanting in any
RB – Aina
Nigeria have played the trio of Semi Ajayi, William Troost-Ekong, and Calvin Bassey at the heart of the defence, and they have formed the bedrock of the best defence in the AFCON.
Troost-Ekong’s leadership and defensive nous have shown brilliantly in key moments, including when he scored the penalty that handed Nigeria the win over Cote d’Ivoire.
South Africa have not been without some excellent defenders, though, with the partnership of Grant Kekana and Mothobi Mvala standing out all through. Mvala narrowly beats his partner to this one, though.
LCB – Troost-Ekong
RCB – Mvala
FC Porto’s Zaidu Sanusi has been Nigeria’s number-one left wing-back, but he has struggled to make his impact.
Rather, Calvin Bassey has bailed him out on several occasions, and the Fulham defender is why many are putting up with the continued stay of Sanusi in the Super Eagles’ first eleven.
South Africa’s Aubrey Modiba has also been only slightly better than Sanusi.
Bassey, though, has been solid and selfless, and he also created Nigeria’s second goal against Cameroon to bundle Modiba and Sanusi out of his way to stake his claim to the left-back role.
LB – Bassey
Questions were raised at the start of the campaign as to whether Frank Onyeka was good enough to step into the big shoes of the injured Wilfred Ndidi at this tournament.
The Brentford man has answered those questions emphatically and has been one of the best defensive midfielders in Ivory Coast.
Only South Africa’s Teboho Mokoena has probably done better than Onyeka. Mokoena, for his work rate, dynamism, and quality, has been easily the Bafana Bafana’s best player at the AFCON.
Mokoena had an assist in the 4-0 victory over Namibia and scored that perfect free-kick that nailed Morocco’s coffin in the second round.
Nigeria’s Alex Iwobi and South Africa’s Sithole will have to sit this one out.
MF – Onyeka
MF – Mokoena
Ademola Lookman has been one of the best players of this tournament, with his three crucial goals in the knockout rounds the reason the Super Eagles are still alive and kicking.
Apart from his game-winning goals against Cameroon and Angola, Lookman has delivered consistent, energetic displays and has always left everything on the pitch.
While South Africa’s Morena has not been entirely poor, his contributions pale in the presence of Lookman’s.
On the opposite flank, Percy Tau has failed to live up to expectations, while Moses Simon’s assist against Angola only papers over his inefficiency in previous games.
South Africa’s Themba Zwane has brought his experience to bear at this tournament.
The 34-year-old netted two goals in the 4-0 win over Namibia and assisted the crucial opening goal in the excellent 2-0 win over World Cup semifinalists Morocco.
FW – Lookman
FW – Zwane
Despite boasting the talents of Paul Onuachu, Kelechi Iheanacho, and Terem Moffi, Nigeria have relied heavily on the talents of the reigning Africa Footballer of the Year, Victor Osimhen.
Osimhen has only one goal and one assist to his name, but he also won the penalty that gave the Super Eagles the win over Ivory Coast and single-handedly tore Cameroon apart.
The Napoli man had a goal disallowed against Angola and has been a handful for opponents at the AFCON.
South Africa’s Evidence Makgopa can also be proud of his contributions to his country’s historic performance at the 34th edition of the continental championship.
The 23-year-old will cherish his assist versus Namibia and his fine strike against Morocco.
Whatever the outcome of the match against Nigeria, the Bafana Bafana have had a fruitful experience in the Ivory Coast, and Makgopa has been a huge part of that.
CF – Osimhen
CF – Makgopa
Nigeria v South Africa: Combined Best Eleven – (4-2-2-2)
Ronwen Williams; Ola Aina, William Troost Ekong, Mothobi Mvala, Calvin Bassey; Teboho Mokoena, Frank Onyeka; Ademola Lookman, Themba Zwane; Victor Osimhen, Evidence Makgopa.