The countdown is almost over.
Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr and Bafana Bafana’s Stuart Baxter will be scheming to outwit each when their teams take to the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday afternoon.
Ahead of this game, Newslegend.com.ng’s IZUCHUKWU OKOSI in this piece highlights the five key battles fans should expect to watch unfold.
- 1. Thulani Serero vs John Ogu
In form Serero makes a timely return to the Bafana squad ravaged by injuries to some key players heading into this contest.
Serero is a fantastic midfield magician who could be handful to the Nigerian back line and midfield.
John Ogu may get Rohr’s nod to play in the defensive midfield role in the absence of Wilfred Ndidi who has been suspended for this game. If Ogu does screen the defence, he could have in his hands the job of stopping Serero from creating chances for the forwards.
- Percy Tau vs Leon Balogun
The Super Eagles and indeed Nigerian football fans will not forget Percy Tau in a hurry.
It was his second goal that clinched victory for the Bafana Bafana side when they claimed a priceless 2-0 win over Nigeria on 10 June 2017 in the reverse leg fixture at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo.
The Royal Union Saint FC forward in the Belgian top flight on loan from English Premier League side Brighton will be ‘policed’ by another Brighton player in Nigeria’s Leon Balogun who surely would know a thing or two about his playing style.
- Lebo Mothiba vs William Troost Ekong
Another interesting battle in prospect in Nigeria’s central defence to look forward to is that of William Troost Ekong and Strasbourg of France’s Lebo Mothiba.
A ruthless striker who has scored six goals in the Ligue 1 so far this season from ten games, Mothiba will not be easy customer for Nigeria’s central defensive pair.
- Ramahle Mphalele vs Ahmed Musa
A section of Nigerian fans and pundits have called on Gernot Rohr to play nimble footed Ahmed Musa as the top striker following the injury suffered by Odion Ighalo which inadvertently ruled him out of Saturday’s game.
However Rohr at 64, is a man who hardly changes his principles and is likely to stick with stand in captain Musa at the left side of attack where he is expected to cut inside to devastating effect like he did at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Should that be the case, South African right back Ramahle Mphalele will have a torrid afternoon trying to mark out Musa. The defender some days ago had called on his teammates to be wary of this dangerous Nigerian team.
- Itumeleng Khune vs Henry Onyekuru
Depending on which striker Rohr decides to go for: Henry Onyekuru, Isaac Success, Samuel Chukwueze or even Ahmed Musa, expect a turbo charged Itumeleng Khune to be chomping at the bits to make a statement as he faces some of Africa’s most lethal strikers/forwards.
Khune is a fantastic goalkeeper with good organisation and great reflexes. He was on duty in Kaizer Chiefs’ Absa Premiership game against Chippa United captained by Nigeria’s Daniel Akpeyi last Saturday where both men were in spectacular forms and won their teams a point.
Any striker on duty for Nigeria on Saturday must take his chances. Khune is simply one of Africa’s best goalkeepers and arguably too good to remain playing on the African continent.
By Izuchukwu Okosi