Nigeria vs South Africa: Five key battles in a scrap for the semifinals 🤺

Nigeria vs South Africa: Five key battles in a scrap for the semifinals 🤺

Anything can and usually does happen in knockout football, and we're expecting an entertaining clash between two sides peaking at just the right time in a major tournament.

Which players could help make the difference between success and failure on a nailbiting night in Egypt? Bafana will be hoping to evoke memories of 1996 when they famously lifted the trophy on home soil. The Super Eagles will want to make up for lost time having missed the last two editions of the tournament. 



Here are five key decisive battles.

Ola Aina vs Percy Tau 

It was a rarity to see Ola Aina behind the halfway line against Cameroon in the round of 16, such was his enterprise going forward from left-back. However, against the talented technician Percy Tau, he might have to curb some of his natural attacking instincts. The balance that he strikes between defence and attack might have a bearing on who claims a place in the semifinals. 

Wilfred Ndidi vs Kamohelo Mokotjo



Stuart Baxter's 4-3-3 formation allows Brentford midfield man Kamohelo Mokotjo the license to get a little further forward than his midfield allies Bongani Zungu and Dean Furman. His direct opponents will be Leicester City's excellent defensive midfielder Wilfred Ndidi, a man who completed more tackles than any other player in the English Premier League last season. Ndidi's job will be to starve the stylish Mokotjo time and space to knit attacks together for South Africa.

Kenneth Omeruo vs Lebo Mothiba

Super Eagles centre back Kenneth Omeruo is still on the books of Chelsea but time away from the North London club seems to have done him good. On-loan at Leganes, he has excelled in LaLiga with his athletic, robust style of defending. There may be no more physical match-up at AFCON than him against imposing Bafana Bafana striker Lebo Mothiba. 

Alex Iwobi vs Bongani Zungu



Whereas Kamohelo Mokotjo will be tasked with linking midfield and attack for Bafana Bafana, legendary Nigerian star Jay-Jay Okoche's nephew, Arsenal star Alex Iwobi, will be the creative fulcrum for the Super Eagles. Iwobi's flamboyance and directness will disrupt the tempo of the game, it's up to Bongani Zungu to disrupt whatever rhythm Iwobi manages to create for himself and speedsters Ahmed Musa and Moses Simon. 

Odion Ighalo vs Thulani Hlatshwayo

Nigeria's prolific hitman Ighalo has been there, done that and got the t-shirt as far as scoring goals for club and country is concerned. 40 goals in 100 appearances for Watford in the Premier League is a top-quality ratio at that level, and he's got two in four at AFCON 2019. Bafana skipper Hlatshwayo will need to draw on all of his experience to contain the wily striker here.



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Read more: Five players that could be decisive when Nigeria faces South Africa