Bafana primed for Nigeria despite Maseko injury
Sundowns’ young winger to miss Afcon semifinal clash
Thapelo Maseko is out of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) with an injury but a replacement will not be called up for the winger, Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos said ahead of Wednesday’s semifinal against Nigeria.
SA, ranked 66th in the world and 12th in Africa, are the shock packages of the Afcon tournament in Ivory Coast but will be hard-pressed to overcome nemesis Nigeria at Stade de la Paix in Bouaké (7pm SA time).
Mamelodi Sundowns’ young winger Maseko, who has been used as a sub by Broos, pulled up with a hamstring injury as SA beat Cape Verde on penalties thanks to captain Ronwen Williams’ four spectacular saves in the penalty shoot-out.
“He has a grade 3 muscle injury so the tournament is over for him,” Broos said on Tuesday. “But he stays with us — he won’t go to SA. And we won’t replace him.”
Nigeria have an impressive record against SA, a team the Super Eagles have dominated over three decades. The West Africans have won seven, drawn five and lost two of 14 clashes.
They also have a proud Nations Cup record, which they have won three times. In the past 11 years Nigeria won the 2013 edition in SA (adding to their 1980 and 1994 titles).
Bafana, the 1996 champions and 1998 runners-up, reached their first quarterfinal since 2002 in 2013, another in 2019 in Egypt and have battled for qualifications to the tournament far too often between those.
So there is an obvious gap in pedigree. Broos, though, knows that results are all about what happens on the day.
He knows Bafana’s hunger to reach a first final since 1998 will be a huge motivating factor. Another potential leveller is that SA have done much to shake their inferiority complex against Nigeria with a decent recent record of a win each and four draws in the past 11 years.
“We are very happy and motivated that tomorrow we play the semifinals of Afcon,” Broos said. “For many people it was unexpected but we did it and that means SA became a good team.
“It’s also more than 20 years since SA played a semifinal and even more for a final, so that means we have got a lot of motivation. The semifinal we are already in but we also want to play in the final on Sunday.
“We are playing against a very good team — No 6 in the African rankings and that has a lot of players based abroad.
“So I think for many people Nigeria would be the favourites tomorrow. But as you know in football it’s not always the favourite who wins.”
Nigeria were rocked by World Cup qualifying draws against Lesotho and Zimbabwe in November that put Portuguese coach José Peseiro under pressure going into the Nations Cup. Their start with a 1-1 draw against Equatorial Guinea could have been disastrous, but they recovered to a four-match winning streak.
Broos, though, said Bafana have already met fearsome opposition in the Nations Cup, so have no reason for trepidation.
Ivory Coast meet Democratic Republic of Congo in Wednesday’s late semifinal in Abidjan (10pm SA time).
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