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Africa Cup of Nations

COMMENT: Bafana Bafana were just not hungry enough against Nigeria

04:34 IST 11/07/2019
Samuel Chukwueze - Nigeria vs. South Africa
Stuart Baxter's tactics coupled with some defensive sloppiness let Bafana down against the Super Eagles, and they didn't deserve to go through

Bafana Bafana showed glimpses of what they are capable of in the previous match against Egypt, but they were a totally different team against Nigeria

This resulted in them being bundled out of the 2019 Africa Cup Nations finals following a 2-1 loss to the Super Eagles. 

The only positive South Africa can draw from the game against Nigeria is how VAR came to the team's rescue when Bongani Zungu headed past Daniel Akpeyi with 20 minutes to go. 

Overall, Stuart Baxter's charges were flat and didn't really show up on the night. 

Nigeria went into the match with a solid plan on how to beat Bafana, but on the other hand, it looked like Baxter didn't really know how and where to hurt his opponents as his tactics were similar to the game against Egypt

A three-man midfield which included Bongani Zungu, Kamohelo Mokotjo, and Dean Furman worked wonders for Bafana against Egypt, and Baxter, without taking anything away from him in this game, shouldn't have tried this against Nigeria.

At least he should have changed things around as soon as he realised his team wasn't coping with all the pressure Nigeria was exerting on the wide areas in the first 25 minutes. 

The aim of the 4-3-3 formation is to protect the back four whilst turning the full-backs into the wing-backs, but for South Africa to get something out of this game, they needed to attack more without being too cautious in their approach.    

Nigeria knew exactly how to exploit spaces behind Bafana's full-backs and they did exactly that, using Ahmed Musa and Samuel Chukwueze while overloading the midfield and forcing Furman to defend too deep. Zungu and Mokotjo could hardly play as there too many green shirts in front of them.  

Sfiso Hlanti and Thamsanqa Mkhize were often exposed as Ahmed Musa and Samuel Chukwueze collected from deep and used their pace to penetrate the South African back four. 

Unlike Egypt, the Super Eagles had too many good players and this perhaps confused Baxter and his technical team, who didn't know which players to stop from playing. 

Alex Iwobi and Odion Ighalo found themselves isolated for the better part of the game, but Bafana ignored other ballplayers such as Oghenekaro Etebo, Chukwueze, and Musa, and this forced them to defend facing their goal.   

Bafana didn't play the ball and when they finally entered the Nigerian final third, the likes of Lebo Mothiba, Percy Tau, and Thembinkosi Lorch were easily bullied off the ball by opposition defenders.

A different approach was needed to frustrate the Super Eagles, but there was none from Baxter, who opted for 'like-for-like' substitutions even when Bafana was clearly not hurting their opponents. 

Defensively, Bafana was just poor on the night as they gave Nigeria acres of space to do as they please inside their own box. 

Chukwueze fluffed his initial attempt, unintentionally giving Bafana a chance to recover and clear their lines but they failed to do so, allowing the left-footed player to score with his weaker foot from their own penalty box. That was unacceptable. 

Ronwen Williams knows he should have done better to stop the second goal as he came all the way but failed to get a touch on a cross by the Super Eagles, but his defence should also shoulder some blame for the poor marking inside the box, especially with less than a minute of regulation time to play.

While beating Egypt was so huge that it gave the nation so much hope, Bafana took that away and just didn't do enough to deserve to go through to the semi-finals.