By Mumini Alao
I HAVE BEEN WRITING SOCCERTALK for 32 years now. This is the first time ever that I will be writing one article under a Double Headline as you can see above.
After the Super Eagles responded positively to my challenge to “Die” against Cameroun last Saturday in their 2019 AFCON Round of 16 clash in Alexandria, I felt morally obligated to devote my post-match headline to salute their accomplishment in beating the Indomitable Lions 3-2 and dethroning them as African champions.
Simultaneously, however, I wanted to immediately sound warning bells to the Eagles about the new threat that awaits them in the quarterfinals in the shape of the Bafana Bafana of South Africa. That explains my first headline.
The second headline is simply a dramatic, or, if you like, poetic version of the first. But because I couldn’t fit in the Super Eagles achievement into it’s rendition, I decided simply to write a second headline. So much for Creative Writing 101.
Back to the football, let me make a confession: I did not watch the Nigeria-Cameroun game live. That’s because, as you must have read from my last article when I urged the Eagles to “die” if necessary, I wanted Nigeria to win so badly that if I had watched live and Cameroun wanted to take a goal kick, I would probably worry that they would score directly from there!
So, instead of working myself up, I simply listened to a radio commentary. It was after the final whistle had gone that I turned on the TV to watch the match highlights and I saw how the two teams conspired to produce a goals galore with some horrendous defending.
Later in the night, I watched fully relaxed a play-back of the game. I make no attempt to take any credits away from the Eagles who demonstrated great courage and determination (exactly what I demanded of them) to come from 2-1 down to win 3-2 against our bitter rivals. But it has to be said that the Cameroun team that I saw last Saturday were so ordinary it would have been a shame if they had beaten us. Rather than roar like the Lions that their moniker typifies, they performed like Pussycats!
In sharp contrast, South Africa showed in their shock elimination of the host country Egypt also last Saturday in Cairo that they have fully grown from boys to men in African football. Let no one be deceived by their moniker “Bafana Bafana” (The Boys, The Boys) anymore. When they gain more experience and hit some consistency in their performance, they will become a real super power on the continent. While the Cameroun lions are becoming pussycats, South Africa’s boys are turning into men.
I watched their game live and the only word that kept cropping up in my mind as they cancelled out the Egyptians with their impressive and tactical organization was “dangerous.” Therefore, it was not a surprise to me when they snatched a late 1-0 win with a quick-fire counter-attacking move that silenced the massive home crowd and left Mohammed Sallah and company no time to recover.
“These South Africans are dangerous,” I have heard many other commentators say since Saturday, using the same word as me: “dangerous.” The Super Eagles must beware.
So, how can the Eagles deal with the danger that the Bafana Bafana represent to their title aspirations? What are South Africa’s strengths and weaknesses and how can the Eagles neutralize those strengths and exploit the weaknesses? What areas do the Eagles themselves need to work on to ensure victory? Which tactical approach should coach Gernot Rohr adopt to counter his opponent Stuart Baxter whose tactical masterclass obviously out-foxed the Egyptians? What should the Eagles starting lineup look like and what is the likely outcome of this match? So many critical questions…
For answers, join me at our fast-growing forum, www.naijasuperfans.com.ng for a full pre-match analysis on match day, Wednesday, 10 July from 10am-12noon and 5pm-8pm. I will be the moderator of both sessions. Let’s have a Conversation on how to beat the South Africans. Register now on our forum. Don’t miss it.