Pretoria: Bafana Bafana and Nigeria have been rocked by the withdrawal of key players ahead of the Nelson Mandela Challenge match, which will be played this evening at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
Kick-off is 8:15pm.
South Africa will be without Belgium-based right-back Anele Ngcongca, whose club, Genk, refused to allow him to travel, citing an unconfirmed injury. Ngcongca was expected to arrive in South Africa on Tuesday morning, along with Belgium-based striker Tokelo Rantie, who has since joined the squad.
The Super Eagles, on the other hand, will also be without influential midfielder John Obi Mikel, who has been withdrawn from the squad due to a stomach bug.
Bafana coach Gordon Igesund said he was hugely disappointed by the behaviour of the Belgium team and would report the matter to the authorities.
“I am very disappointed by what has transpired and I have taken the matter up with Safa to handle, so it is out of my hands. They will take the matter further [with FIFA].
“For now, we need to follow the right channels and get to the bottom of this. I don’t want this minor setback to affect our preparations against Nigeria but need to add that I will not be replacing Anele as I believe I have enough players who can take that role – the likes of Tshepo Gumede, Thabo Nthethe and Thulani Hlatshwayo.”
Igesund said he believed the team currently at camp will hold their own against Nigeria. All they needed to do was focus on the match.
Bafana midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala is confident South Africa will come out with a positive result in tonight’s match against African champions Nigeria in the 19th edition of the annual Nelson Mandela Challenge.
Making SA proud
The most-capped Bafana player in the current squad said he was well aware of the mammoth task facing his home-team.
“It is going to be a tough match. We know they are a quality side, but it is also an opportunity for us to rise to the occasion and make the nation proud.
“This is not just another game; we will be facing African champions in honour of former South African State President, Nelson Mandela, so this is a very important match for us,” said Tshabalala.
“The core of the team is here, but we also have new players, which shows that our league is doing well to produce such players.
“I believe we will give a good account of ourselves, even though we know that Nigeria is a very experienced and tough side. I am confident it will be a good game and we will be on the winning side.”
Tshabalala’s words were echoed by midfielder Dean Furman.
“This is a very important match for us, more so it is being played on home soil. We really want to win this one, like we do with every game. The good thing is that we have shown over the last few matches that we can mix it up with the best and if it is a physical match we are ready for it. But at the same time, we will continue to play our own normal game.
“The game is going to be difficult because the Super Eagles have good European based players, so winning will give us a great boost ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Botswana next month.”
In the seven outings where South Africa and Nigeria have met, the former have won only once, drawn one match and lost five times.
During the 1994 World Cup qualifier match played in Lagos in October 1992, Nigeria beat Bafana 4-0 and played to a goalless draw in the second leg of the qualifiers played in Johannesburg in 1993.
South Africa also lost 2-0 during the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Lagos, followed by another 4-0 defeat at the 2004 Afcon in Tunisia.
When the two African football powerhouse nations met for the Mandela Challenge in 2004 in Johannesburg, Bafana beat Nigeria 2-1, but the Nigerians hit back with a 2-0 during the 2010 World Cup/Afcon qualifier in June 2008.
The Super Eagles also won 1-0 during the second leg of the 2010 World Cup/Afcon qualifier played in Port Elizabeth in 2008.