Bafana Bafana against Nigeria is not just a battle on the football pitch, there’s a klomp other things bubbling under the surface.
The rivalry with Nigeria goes beyond the football pitch, it’s in business, popular culture, social circles and even faith.
So this is a final before the final for both these teams, with the stakes of the rivalry set even higher with a spot in what might be the most-watched final in world football this year.Neither nation has really delivered on its potential as an African football powerhouse, so the motivation to win is there for both teams.
Nigeria has one the furthest reaching heritage lines in the world, and have one of the most valuable squads in the tournament.
Their first-choice goalkeeper is Stanley Nwabili, who turns out for Chippa United here in the PSL.
He has conceded only once in this tournament, which is one more than his opposite number Ronwen Williams.
Two of the tournament’s safest hands will be standing between triumph and disappointment.
It speaks volumes of South Africa’s potential with a squad made up largely of PSL players in with a chance of winning the whole thing!
South Africa’s Afcon graph has been pretty chaotic, with sharp spikes from non-qualification in 1994, when the journey officially started and winning it two years after.
The last time they reached this stage of the tournament was at the 2000 tournament jointly hosted by Ghana and Nigeria.
Shaun Bartlett captained and top scored at that tournament with five goals.
You won’t believe who knocked us out of the semis at the tournament? It was the very same Naija boys in green and white!
Tijani Babangida was in menacing form for the Super Eagles that day, in what was a battle of the Golden Generations that we were denied some the years before that.
It has resulted in an unsettled debate whether Bafana might have won the ‘96 Afcon if Nigeria had participated?
We’d have to also consider if Kenya didn’t have political issues either and had hosted as planned?We’ve all seen how this has been the tournament of moments, and the teams that make the most of those moments has won, even without having played well in the game.
It’s going to be crucial for us not to allow Nigeria’s danger men like Ademola Lookman and Victor Osinmeh, if he passes a late fitness test, to dominate us.
Bafana learned a hard lesson at the very beginning, when they were dismantled by Mali, losing 2-0 after a masterclass of a first-half display in their opening group match.
We’re a team that is now harder to figure out because we’ve demonstrated our versatility and how well we adapt to situations thrown at us.
Redemption is standing right outside the door for the 2024 Bafana generation to mark their names in the history books.
I’ve sat with both Nigeria’s Jay-Jay Okocha and South African legend Lucas Radebe and asked them what they think might have happened back then.
While they both have different views on the result, they both agree that it was something that needed to happen with everything that South Africa had gone through.
This road travelled, with this family unit, for this quest has not only been for us. It’s for our country, our families and the 62 million who like we, BELIEVE! Thank you South Africa 🇿![CDATA]>🇦 for the ❤️ #semifinal #TotalEnergiesAFCON2023 #AfCON2023 #BafanaPride pic.twitter.com/fR1CBfM3IK— Bafana Bafana (@BafanaBafana) February 7, 2024
This might be that time again, for Diski to stand up and be among those that bring pride back to the Rainbow Nation.