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By Citizen Reporter


Bafana can just, maybe, surprise

The squad's new coach holds the title of being the only Bafana coach to have beaten Nigeria in any match.

Bafana Bafana begin their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign this evening with one of the trickiest tests there is in the continental game: a trip to Nigeria to face the Super Eagles.

Travelling away in Africa is hardly ever a breeze, with long flights, energy-sapping weather conditions, hostile crowds and often inhospitable playing surfaces all playing their part.

Referees have also been known to give what can best be described as “home” decisions in these qualifiers – though this, it must be said, has improved as one of the benefits of increased television coverage.

Bafana, in any case, can hardly complain about referees being against them right now, after the farce of their World Cup qualifier at home to Senegal last November. Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey, who gave Bafana an extremely dodgy penalty in that match in Polokwane, has been banned for life by Fifa for “match manipulation”.

Bafana also seem to have been treated well by Nigerian authorities since arriving in Uyo – indeed, it is the Nigerian team that is likely to give them far more worries today than any off-field issues. This is a Nigeria side, as usual, packed with talent, many of whom ply their trade in the English Premier League. Alex Iwobi of Arsenal, Manchester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho and Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi are just three players against whom it is hard to see any similar quality of in the Bafana squad.

But Bafana can draw on good memories from 2014, when they got a 2-2 draw in Uyo against another star-studded Nigerian team. Stuart Baxter, ahead the first game of his second spell in charge of the senior national team, has certainly talked a good game in the build-up to this match. He is, ironically, the only Bafana coach to have beaten Nigeria in any match – in the 2004 Nelson Mandela Challenge. Maybe, just maybe, Bafana can spring a surprise.

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