Bafana will have to keep close tabs on Nigeria’s Lookman

Bafana will have to keep close tabs on Nigeria’s Lookman. Picture: File

Bafana will have to keep close tabs on Nigeria’s Lookman. Picture: File

Published Feb 6, 2024


A trip down memory lane will reveal that in February 2000, Nigeria’s Super Eagles sent South Africa’s Bafana Bafana packing in an Africa Cup of Nations semi-final clash after winning 2-0.

On Wednesday (kick-off 7pm), the stage is set for another Afcon final four encounter between these powerhouses of African football. The match 24 years ago was played in Lagos, since Nigeria were the tournament’s co-host at the time, with 60 000 impassioned fans willing the Super Eagles to victory over Trott Moloto’s outfit.

This time around, Nigeria will not have home-ground advantage, as the neutrality of Stade de la Paix awaits.

Bafana were arguably a far stronger outfit back in 2000 due to 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 was also impressive and 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).

Ajax Amsterdam striker Tijani Babangida was Nigeria’s hero on the night, however, as his first-half brace proved enough for his nation to reach the final, which Nigeria would eventually lose to Cameroon.

On Wednesday night, Nigeria have another match winner lined up in the mould of Babangida – British-born Ademola Lookman, who plays as a winger for Serie A club Atalanta.

The former Everton and Charlton Athletic striker has scored three of Nigeria’s six goals at Afcon 2023 thus far, and his exploits in front of opposition goals have made SA coach Hugo Bross sit up 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 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 analyse them a little bit more now that we know we are playing against his team in the semi-finals.”

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 the 26-year-old.

“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.”

Nevertheless, 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.

The Star