The Super Eagles of Nigeria knocked the Bafana Bafana of South Africa out of the 2019 Total AFCON yesterday in a Quarterfinal meeting at the Cairo International Stadium courtesy of a late goal by William Troost-Ekong. The Eagles had taken the lead in the first half through Samuel Chukwueze but were pegged back late in the second half by the South Africans through a goal by Bongani Zungu. The Eagles dug deep for a late winner and were finally rewarded by Ekong’s goal in the 89th minute.
Here are 5 major talking points from the encounter.
1. Chukwueze is a star in the making
Samuel Chukwueze was rewarded with a starting spot in the game following his impressive cameo against Cameroon, and he took the opportunity with both hands. He scored the Eagles’ opening goal and tortured the Bafana Bafana defence throughout the game. He showed great maturity and never looked out of place. The 20-year-old Villarreal winger was deservedly awarded as the Man of the match. He gave Nigerian football enthusiasts reasons to be optimistic about the future.
2. Ahmed Musa Comes Alive
The winger has not been at his usual best since the tournament began, but he caught the eye against the Bafana Bafana with his incredible pace and energy. Could have gotten himself a goal but elected to pick a pass to teammates when presented with goalscoring opportunities.
3. An assured performance by the Nigerian defence
The Nigerian defence line had not been convincing in the previous games, but was cohesive, confident, solid and well organised against the Bafana Bafana —who troubled hosts, Egypt, throughout their Round of 16 clash. The inclusion of fit again fullback, Jamilu Collins, obviously contributed to this.
4. Nigerian coach not tactically adept
Although the Super Eagles are now in the Semifinals, but fans are still concerned about the inability of manager, Gernot Rohr, to react to in-game situations(most especially regarding substitutions). This weakness affected the Eagles at the last World Cup in Russia and is still apparent at the AFCON. In the game against South Africa, he could have done better by making substitutions — especially as Odion Ighalo was struggling in the game — before the Bafana Bafana got their equalizing goal. Ekong’s late goal saved Rohr’s blushes.
5. South Africa bow out gallantly
No one expected the Bafana Bafana to reach the Quarterfinals when they got drawn in the “group of death” that also comprises of giants, Morocco and Ivory Coast, but they exceeded expectations by getting out of the group and also knocking out favorites and hosts, Egypt, in the Round of 16. They gave the Super Eagles a run for their money in the Quarterfinals and were only let down by a costly mistake from goalkeeper, Williams, from a corner in the closing stages which led to Troost-Ekong’s goal. The Bafana Bafana will go home after making a big impression in the tournament and with their heads held up high.