Themba Zwane scores superb goal as Bafana hold Nigeria in Fifa World Cup qualifier

Bafana star Teboho Mokoena, seen here holding off Nigerian goal-scorer Fisayo Dele-Bashiru, almost scored from a free kick in Uyo last night. Photo: BackpagePix

Bafana star Teboho Mokoena, seen here holding off Nigerian goal-scorer Fisayo Dele-Bashiru, almost scored from a free kick in Uyo last night. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Jun 7, 2024


Bafana Bafana and Nigeria settled for a share of the spoils after drawing 1-1 in their third-round 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifier at Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo on Friday night.

This result didn’t help either side as Bafana remained fourth with four points, one ahead of the fifth-placed Super Eagles, while Lesotho top Group C with five points.

Bafana will want to return to winning ways against Zimbabwe, who lost 2-0 to Lesotho earlier in the day, at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Tuesday night.

But perhaps they should have done better last night in Uyo. After all, they took the lead in the 29th minute, courtesy of Themba Zwane, and knew this ground very well.

It was this time of the year seven years ago that Bafana beat Nigeria 2-0 at this venue in the 2019 Afcon qualifiers for their first win over the Super Eagles in a competitive game.

But having run out of steam in the second half, coach Hugo Broos will argue that the flight delays and long bus trips ahead of the game resulted in their shortcomings.

For the new Super Eagles coach Finidi George, this was also not a desired result for his first competitive game, having beaten Ghana and lost to Mali as an interim mentor.

But Jose Peseiro’s replacement could also argue that the departure of his assistant Daniel Amokachi mid-camp, and the late arrival of his players, played a role last night.

George’s job was cut out for him as he had to manage a team they drew 1-1 against in the Afcon semi-final six months ago, and beat 4-2 on penalties, without the injured talisman Victor Osimhen.

In the earlier stages, though, the fact that the two teams came into this match on the back of challenges didn’t show as they started the match with a lot of vigour.

Granted, Bafana led heading into the break, but it was the hosts that had the brighter start, with Ademola Lookman aiming to live up to expectations.

Atalanta’s Europa League final hero was, however, stopped in his tracks by Bafana’s rearguard, which had one change to the usual four – Siyabonga Ngezana.

The Romania-based Ngezana, who was making his first appearance since 2018, didn’t look out of place alongside Mothobi Mvala in central defence.

As such, the defensive unit’s solid shift added more confidence to the front-runners as Iqraam Rayners kept the Super Eagles defence on its toes.

But it was Teboho Mokoena that tested the waters first, the midfielder unleashing a low and hard shot that Stanley Nwabali parried towards an offside Rayners.

After that open-play move didn’t bear fruit, Mokoena went close to breaking the deadlock with a set piece, but his shot shaved the crossbar.

Bafana piled the pressure onto the hosts, and they were rewarded when Zwane got the team’s breakthrough in the 29th minute.

Sphephelo Sithole exploited the pockets to find Zwane, who moved with great skill between a cluster of Nigeria’s green jerseys before picking his spot and slotting past Nwabali.

It was a goal that stunned the 30 000-plus Super Eagles faithful as Bafana looked to be on course for another pulsating win in the enemy’s den.

Nwabali saved his team from going further behind after coming off his line to block Khuliso Mudau’s sliding effort after he was put through by Percy Tau.

Bafana averted the pressure the hosts piled on before half-time, but George’s team talk worked like a charm as his troops levelled matters within a minute into the second half.

Alex Iwobi found Fisayo Dele-Bashiru, who did well to hold up play before turning in front of Mvala to unleash a shot that beat a diving Ronwen Williams in goal.

After both teams made a host of changes in the second half, including Lyle Foster making his first cameo since missing Afcon due to mental issues, the game came to life.

Tau unceremoniously missed an open net with a curler from close range, before Nigerian substitute Samuel Chukwueze hit the crossbar. Then Williams denied Lookman from close range in stoppage time.