Saturday’s titanic Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier between Bafana Bafana and the Super Eagles of Nigeria has had football fans talking the whole week and time for talking is over.
South Africa and Nigeria have the biggest rivalry on the African continent, bigger than any other clash, and Saturday’s match has lots of bearing towards the 2019 qualification.
The winner in Saturday’s encounter will qualify for Cameroon while the loser will have to wait a little longer until the final qualifiers in March next year.
To say all roads lead to FNB Stadium on Saturday is an understatement. This is the match that will be followed by the whole of Africa and the world at large.
While Nigeria only arrived in South Africa on Friday morning, the hosts have had a good week of training in scorching Gauteng weather and after the final training session on Friday, the boys looked pumped up and ready for one of their biggest encounter.
Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter told the media at the final media briefing that his charges were ready for this monumental clash, but added it will be a great and tough game all-round.
“It is going to be a tough game. Nigeria are a good team. They will create problems on many levels but if we stretch ourselves and play to the best of our ability, we will give them problems,” he said.
The Bafana Bafana coach recalled the Uyo encounter in which South Africa defied odds to come away with a convincing 2-0 win.
“We were tactically disciplined in Uyo and we hope to do the same come Saturday. We don’t want them to dictate the pace. We are at home. We want to create big spaces because we are good with big spaces,” said Baxter adding that it is imperative that the hosts take every chance they create.
Baxter also touched on the huge incentives that Nigeria players have been promised to win this match saying money to him has never been an issue as a player and today.
“When I started playing football and even now, money has never been my god. It is nice to have but I don’t feel better rewarded if someone gives me an extra million; the biggest reward is to see the public smile and players proud of themselves.”
He said South Africa and most parts of the world were undergoing economic challenges and that is something that has to be taken into consideration by everyone.
“The whole of South Africa is undergoing economic stress and people are called to tighten their belts. Money has not been an issue with us; we are here for the three points and make fans happy.”
He once again made a last minute call for fans to go and buy tickets saying the team needs to feel at home and not to be outnumbered by the visitors.
He also played down issues of nerves saying the team had a good session on Thursday on how to deal with pressure.
“I can only control what I can control and what I can’t control, I won’t worry about,” he concluded.