Nigeria v. South Africa Cup of Nations Preview

South Africa looking to break non-winning streak, Nigeria hoping to avenge 2015 draw

The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying is finally set to kick off this weekend with the first games of group play. Nigeria playing host to South Africa in Group E on Saturday is one of the more highly anticipated matchups of the entire tournament so far. South Africa is looking for their first outright win against Nigeria in competitive play since 1992 (suffering six losses and three draws in that time span). Meanwhile, Nigeria is hoping to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations finals for the first time since last winning the entire thing in 2013. Nigeria is also going into the match with the intent of avenging a draw with South Africa in the qualifiers for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations that contributed to them not even making the tournament. “This time, we must restore our pride and make sure we get the three points off them on Saturday. Nigerians do not forgive losers easily and it is our responsibility to make the country proud,” said Ogenyi Onazi, who will be the captain of the Nigerian squad for at least this weekend. Nigeria’s head coach Gernot Rohr wanted to keep optimism in check, saying that the team is filled with younger players, so “there is still considerable work to do.”

The other side just appointed defender Thulani Hlatshwayo as their new captain last week, and he recognizes this weekend will be a “baptism of fire”. However, he believes that there is no psychological barrier and that the chances of victory are higher than what the statistics would have you believe. New South Africa head coach Stuart Baxter, returning after a previous stint in the role, also believes in the squad’s ability to win: “We are capable of hurting Nigeria. We want to be a big nuisance to them, to be their worst nightmare.”

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