Femi Solaja with agency report
As the much-awaited Group E clash between the Super Eagles and the Bafana Bafana of South Africa draws near, former Nigerian Captain Austin Jay Jay Okocha has expressed confidence in the ability of the three-time African champions to claim maximum points in the showdown in Johannesburg.
Okocha’s optimism however is contrary to what the Head Coach of the South African team, Stuart Baxter, is thinking of the grudge game.
Baxter has tasked his wards not to be carried away with the 2-0 away win against Super Eagles last year but to work hard in order to grind the same excellent result before their capacity home crowd on Saturday.
“South Africa versus Nigeria is always that kind of match where bragging rights are everything. That will be a big motivating factor for both teams, especially for us because we lost the first match in Uyo,” said Okocha who was in South Africa for a Bundesliga promotion event last week.
“We have a slight advantage. A draw will be enough for us. South Africa are under pressure even though they might be confident because they beat us in the first leg. I know the teams are a little different now but we will take pride in getting revenge.”
He added, “We have a squad of good young players who can turn things around, they have the ability. But our problem is always great expectations. Let’s change our mentality and allow them to mature. The experience they got from the World Cup has built them and they will go on to achieve big things. I believe we’re on the right track.”
But the Bafana Coach has charged his players not to be over confident going into the all-important match after the famous 2-0 win.
The coach hopes that the memory of the triumph in Uyo doesn’t go to his players’ heads.
“I hope it (the win in Uyo) has broken the – almost – belief that we can’t beat Nigeria. But that comes from somewhere deep down, not just from a load of words but your actions on the field,” said Baxter.
“When looking in their eyes, you’ve got to make sure that it is deep, deep down that you really believe it. So, I hope it’s broken that.”
Nigeria leads Group E with nine points coming from three straight wins against Seychelles and Libya and is one point ahead of South Africa.