Who: Nigeria vs South Africa
What: CAF AFCON 2023 semifinal
When: Wednesday, February 7, 2024, 17:00 GMT
Where: Stade Bouake, Ivory Coast
Nigeria have a major concern over the fitness of African Footballer of the Year Victor Osimhen ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations semifinal with South Africa on Wednesday.
The Super Eagles striker missed the squad’s flight from Abidjan to Bouake on Monday after complaining of abdominal discomfort.
Before that, the 25-year-old had been ever present for his side at the tournament and has scored 21 goals in 32 international appearances.
“Team medics confirmed that he has been placed under close watch with a member of the medical team staying behind in Abidjan with him,” Nigeria said on Tuesday on the social media platform X.
“He will join the rest of the squad before 5pm, if cleared by tomorrow [Wednesday] morning.”
Members of the team traveled from Abidjan to Bouaké today via a 10pm Air Cote D’Ivoire flight. Osimhen did not however make the trip as a result of an abdominal discomfort. Team medics confirmed that he has been placed under close watch with a member of the medical team staying… pic.twitter.com/G39LqaKcVA
— 🇳🇬 Super Eagles (@NGSuperEagles) February 5, 2024
Osimhen, who was the leading scorer in Serie A last season with champions Napoli, has scored only once in five matches so far at the tournament.
His performance and work rate, however, were praised as “fantastic” by his coach Jose Peseiro after the 2-0 round of 16 victory against Cameroon.
Peseiro added that the striker’s ability off the ball is just as prolific as his goal-scoring ability.
“Nobody can win a match alone – everyone has to play – but he is a good example,” the coach said.
This is Nigeria’s record-equaling 16th semifinal appearance in their 20th AFCON tournament.
Only seven-time champion Egypt has played as many semifinals although the Pharaohs have played in 26 tournaments.
Wednesday’s game against the Bafana Bafana is a repeat of the semifinal in 2000 when Nigeria won 2-0 in Lagos.
Nigeria won the last of its three titles in 2013 while South Africa’s only win came in 1996.
𝙏𝙊 𝙏𝙃𝙀 𝙎𝙀𝙈𝙄-𝙁𝙄𝙉𝘼𝙇𝙎! 🔥
— CAF (@CAF_Online) February 3, 2024
South Africa have grown into the tournament after an opening 2-0 defeat against Mali in the group stage.
Bafana Bafana finished second in their group thanks to a goalless draw with Tunisia in their final match, which eliminated the 2004 finalists.
Tournament favourites Morocco were overcome in the round of 16. South African coach Hugo Broos admitted that another victory, the quarterfinal win on penalties against Cape Verde, was his side’s worst performance at the tournament as he believed nerves got the better of the players.
Broos himself is no stranger to AFCON success and does appear to have the Midas touch at the competition.
The former Belgium international won the continental title with Cameroon in 2017, taking a side given little chance before the start all the way to the winners podium and now, seven years later, has led equally unfancied South Africa to the last four.
Before the tournament, Broos, who was handed a five-year contract in 2021, had won 11 of 22 games and, after initially using players only under 26 to rebuild the side, was forced to abandon those plans when the youngsters were not delivering.
But his Cup of Nations record is impressive even if the statistics belie some lucky escapes.
His Cameroon side reached the knockout stage in 2017 only after a brilliant last-gasp save by young goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa denied hosts Gabon the winner after they struck the post in the last minute.
Cameroon went on to edge Senegal in the quarterfinals on penalties and then beat Ghana and Egypt to win the title.
After Bafana Bafana advanced to the semifinals, Broos’s Cup of Nations record now reads five wins and five draws with a single loss in 11 games over the two editions.
South Africa were fortunate to see off Cape Verde on Saturday when goalkeeper Ronwen Williams made an astonishing series of saves in the post-match shootout. The stopper also pushed a late Blue Sharks effort onto the bar in the dying seconds of normal time.
Many believed the round of 16 match-up between Osimhen and Cameroon and Manchester United goalkeeper Andre Onana was going to be one of the highlights of the tournament. Onana, though, was benched for the second consecutive game.
All of Nigeria and all neutrals around the world will be hoping a face-off between Williams and Osimhen is not also denied by the latter’s medical concerns.
— Bafana Bafana (@BafanaBafana) February 5, 2024
Nigeria remain unbeaten at the tournament after their win against Ivory Coast along with two draws in the group stage.
Cameroon were overcome 2-0 in the round of 16 while Angola were seen off 1-0 in the quarterfinals, which means the Super Eagles have not conceded a goal since their tournament opening draw with Equatorial Guinea.
Similarly South Africa’s strength has been their defence, and they too have not conceded since their opening loss to Mali.
The penalty win against Cape Verde in the quarterfinals will have put a lot of fatigue into the Bafana Bafana bodies, especially after the momentous win against Morocco in the round of 16
Nigeria: D W D W W
South Africa: D W D W W
Nigeria team news
Osimhen’s abdominal complaint overshadows the build-up to the semifinal, and it will be all eyes on the Super Eagles striker to see if and when he departs Abidjan to link up with the squad in Bouake.
Predicted XI: Nwabali, Ajayi, Troost-Ekong, Bassey, Aina, Onyeka, Iwobi, Sanusi, Simon, Lookman, Osimhen
South Africa team news
South Africa have no new injury complaints going into the semifinal. Fatigue will be their greatest concern after the victory on penalties against Cape Verde. Whether that influences Broos to make any changes remains to be seen.
Predicted XI: Williams, Mudau, Kekana, Mvala, Modiba, Mokoena, Sithole, Morena, Zwane, Tau, Makgopa