A walk down memory lane reveals that in February 2000, Nigeria’s Super Eagles defeated South Africa’s Bafana Bafana in an Africa Cup of Nations semifinal in Lagos.
Following their recent quarter-final victory, these two African football powerhouses will face off again in the AFCON semi-finals on Wednesday evening.
The February 2000 outcome may prompt South Africans to seek vengeance in Wednesday’s clash in Bouaké, Ivory Coast’s second-largest city.
The February 2000 match was held in Lagos because Nigeria was a co-host at the time. Nigeria’s 60,000 ardent fans willed their squad to triumph over Trott Moloto’s outfit.
The Bafana squad at the time was far stronger on paper because of the presence of several international stars like Andre Arendse (Fulham), Lucas Radebe (Leeds United), Mark Fish (Bolton Wanderers), Quinton Fortune (Manchester United), Helman Mkhalele (Ankaragücü) and Shaun Bartlett (FC Zürich).
The Super Eagles team that triumphed in that game included some of the legends of African football such as Taribo West (AC Milan), Finidi George (Real Betis), Sunday Oliseh (Juventus) and Nwankwo Kanu (Arsenal).
From the time the two countries emerged victorious in their quarter-final matches, footy fans across the continent rubbed their hands with glee at the prospect of these bitter rivals meeting again. This clash has traditionally been dubbed the ‘Amapiano vs Afrobeats derby’ because of the popularity of the countries’ music on the global stage.
In February 2000, Ajax Amsterdam striker Tijani Babangida was Nigeria’s hero – his first-half brace proved enough for Nigeria to reach the final, at the expense of South Africa.
On Wednesday night, Nigeria has another match-winner lined up in the mould of Babangida, who is capable of inflicting the same pain on the South Africans again 24 years later. He is, British-born, Ademola Lookman who plays as a winger for Serie A club Atalanta.
The former Everton and Charlton Athletic striker Lookman has scored three of Nigeria’s six goals at AFCON 2023. His exploits in front of the opposition goals have made SA coach Hugo Broos sit and take notice.
“Nigeria is a team who have become better and better with every game at this Afcon,” said Broos.
“It’s a good team and a very good side with a few good players like the one, what’s his name? Look at Ademola Lookman, the one who scored the goal (against Angola) and two in the previous round (against Cameroon).
“He is a very good player. We have to analyze them a little bit more now that we know we are playing against his team in the semi-finals.”
Keep an eye on Lookman
On the eve of their showdown against South Africa Lookman, who played for several England youth sides before opting to play internationally for Nigeria, said he is battling with the weight of expectation.
“I feel the pressure wearing this Nigeria shirt,” said Lookman. “Every single time I put on the jersey, that’s just what comes with being Nigerian and playing for the country.
“I’m proud to do that and take that responsibility.”
By this time, Broos has managed to mould a winning team and the players have been performing beyond expectations to book their place in the last four. He is wary of the ever-improving Nigeria but believes his side can come out victorious in Wednesday’s clash.
“We will see how we can use the weaknesses in this team and be aware of the qualities of this team,” said Broos