|semi-finals: Nigeria - South
Africa 2 : 0
This had been the preview
before the match:
After 28 of the 32 matches
of the tournament Nigeria, South-Africa, and Cameroon look like the strongest
African teams, with Nigeria getting the price tag for the most exciting.
But now it is about playing
each other and about who will win the Cup (do not forget: outsiders Tunisia
are still in the race as well).
The Nigerians: they did
not play each match at the same quality level, but when they were best,
they looked irresistible. And the play at home. Their flamboyant style
is motored by an unbelievable midfileld with Okocha and Kanu, assisted
by Finidi and Adepoju.
But Okocha is banned after
a silly elbow against a Senegalese player and a resulting red card in the
quarter finals. And their attack, usually spiced with names like Amokachi,
Akpoborie, and Ikpeba has had to play with (young) replacements. Are they
(already) good enough for the big matches?
The South Africans are missing
big names upfront as well. No McCarthy, no Masinga, and possibly an injured
Bartlett. So the the bright new star Nomvete will try to catch the Nigerians
on counter attacks.
But maybe a surprise will
bring up both, Ikpeba and Bartlett for this match.
Despite prominent names,
the biggest question of the match could be the Nigerian concentration.
Against Morocco they achieved shutting out the opponent. But overall statisctics
are alarming and stunning:
Since 1994 Nigeria has played
23 matches at big final tournaments, including the 1994 Nations Cup, the
1994 World Cup, the 1996 Olympics, the 1998 World Cup and this Nations
Some data: At the 94 Nations
Cup they had to come from behind as well at the semi-finals and at the
final. At the semi-finals they needed a penalty shoot-out against the equally
strong Côte d'Ivoire. At the 1996 Olympics they had to come from
behind against both, Brasil at semi-finals and Argentina at the final.
In the first round they had not achieved the task against Brasil and would
have gone out, if Japan had scored enough goals against Hungary.
At the 1998 World Cup they
fell behind in three of their four matches, the last deficit proved as
too big: Danmark continued exploiting the situation and won 4:1.
Most conspicious: Early
1994 in the finals against
Zambia after 4 minutes, 1996 in the semi-finals against Brasil after 1
minute, and 1996 in the Olympic finals against Argentina after 3 Minutes.
1998 against Paraguay after
1 minute and two goals against Denmark after 3 and 12 minutes.
And 2000 against Senegal
after 7 minutes when a defensive blunder allowed Fadiga a lot of time to
score his goal.
Only the 1994 World Cup
had been 'perfect' in this context. But it saw a situation when losing
to Argentina that repeated itself two years later at Atlanta: Nigeria was
caught unconcentrated by quickly executed free kicks for smart goals by
Comeback adventures might
be the most exciting way for their fans to win matches: Nigeria has achieved
to win 4 out of those 6 early fall-behinds. But the more experienced the
counterparts, the more impossible the task.
23 matches - 11 fall-behinds
during matches in total produced only 5 defeats.
9 times it was 0:1 and that
led only to 3 losses!
The shutouts were less exciting
but effective: 11 matches with 9 wins and only two 0:0 draws in less crucial
first round matches.
The only match where Nigeria
took the lead and opponents scored goals was the Nigeria-Tunisia
game of the first round at this Nations Cup.
Those facts speak for both:
the creativity potential of Nigeria and their vulnerability.
And for an exciting game.
Nigeria: 1-Ike Shoronmu;
3-Celestine Babayaro, 5-Furo Iyenemi, 6-Taribo West, 21-Godwin Okpara,
7-Finidi George, 15-Sunday Oliseh, 8-Mutiu Adepoju, 13-Tijani Babangida,
4-Nwankwo Kanu, 18-Raphael Chukwu.
South Africa: 22-Andre Arendse;
4-Lucas Radebe, 5-Mark Fish, 15-Pierre Issa, 19-Dumisa Ngobe, 8-Thabo Mngomeni,
10-John Moshoeu, 7-Quinton Fortune, 11-Helman Mkhalele, 9-Shaun Bartlett,
Referee: Gamal el Ghandour
-Sunday Oliseh is back
in the team to stabilize the Nigerian Super Eagles: In the last 10 matches
at final tournaments Nigeria has conceded 5 times a goal in the first 10
-('1) Babangida takes
the ball and runs down the left hand side, takes a cut inside and shoots
at the near post, Arendse deflects it, but it's in the back of the net,
what a beginning after
the story of conceding goals!
-('4) Babangida with another
run igniting the crowd, he manages to pass the ball on despite attacked
by 4 defenders, but Chukwu? loses control
Now it is a different
scene than expected: South Africa has to attack and Nigeria with some room
for counter play
-('9) Soth Africa: Mkhalele
wins a free-kick from the right hand side, already the second, but Nigeria
defends the Quinton Fortune ball in successfully, some seconds later a
Bartlestt attempt flies high across the goal
South African forwards
put some pressure on the slow Nigerian build up at this moment, long balls
threaten to hurt them
-('12) error by Taribo West
in build up, but no harm here
-('14) another Quinton Fortune
free kick into the penalty area and Shoronmu with a few problems
-('16) Huge scene for Nigeria:
Babangida again: this time he decides for a through ball on Chukwu, who
is stopped in the last moment by Arendse, the rebounding ball is shot acrooss
-('17) Nomvete is stopped
at the last moment by the Nigerian defence
Nomvete starts to get
into the game
-('20) Nigeria: Chukwu wins
a free kick from half right, 20 meters. Okocha's not there and Babayaro
kicks it into the wall
-('23) Nigeria: Shoronmu
is out in time to deny South Africa a chance.
-('24) Nigeria: Finidi free
kick from the right wing causes some orientation problems in the South
-('26) Mosheou tries from
far, but no problem for Shoronmu
-('29) Nigeria: Finidi tries
from distance but misses target
-('30) South Africa: Ngobe
ball on Nomvete who hits the outside of the net
-('34) Nigeria: a Super
Eagles attack over the right wing plays Babangida free on the left side
who directly takes it and chips it by the inside of his foot into the far
corner from about 10 meters - 2:0
-('35) Kanu ignites the
-('36) South Africa threatens
but it is Babangida on the counter attack again - this time he's stopped
-('38) South Africa tries
again but can't win nothing more than a corner
-('40) Nigeria: Kanu wins
a free kick from the right side of the penalty right at the border but
Finidis attempt does nothing
Kanu protects each ball
with his body and great technique. South Africa seems run out of odeas
at the moment.
-('44) South Africa causes
want to know for which club Kanu played 1996?
which shirt number he
wore at Atlanta?
you wonder whether Chad
has played any matches recently and who played for them?
the author has just informed
me that the new African Yearbook
2000 is out now
(if you fill out the
form, ask also for the 'History Of The African Nations Cup' which is scheduled
to come out in March)
Nigeria in the drivers seat
from the beginning on: the early goal has put them in the position to play
a different game and exploit some qualities of a player, which has suddenly
added another name to the Nigerian impact player arsenal with this match:
South Africa looks as if
it will be difficult for them to score at all now. But one goal could shift
the momentum as so often in football. So stay online.
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-South Africa: #18 Bapela
is on now
-('47) South Africa with
a different attitude? Babangida is fouled right away
-('49) Nigeria with some
pressing and an Aendse error: the ball comes to Chukwu who is all alone
in front of the goal but needs some time to get the ball under control.
So Radebe can arrive in time to irritate him and make his shot go wide
-('51) Great save by Shoronmu
against a most dangerous low 25 meter shot by Bapela that would have gone
accurately into the corner
Bapela is the only player
from South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns on the field
-('56) Nigeria: Babangida
curves around the defenders again and is fouled by Fish short before he
can penetrate into the South African penalty area - free kick from half
left, 17 meters, Babangida has to get treated
-('58) Nigeria tries a trick
put it is either executed poorly or it was really new and did not work
-(''60) South Africa: Huge
opportunity, but Bartlett who takes the rebounding ball after a Nomvete
chance fires it wide from not more than 8 meters
-('64) Mistake by Nigeria
and a good solo run by Nomvete. Shoronmu can save his shot from close range
-('65) South Africa: Another
promising attack this time run by Mkhalele but his ball in from the right
is narrowly missed by Nomvete
-('66) Nigeria: A Finidi
granade across the bar - it wasn't far
-('67) South Africa revives
-('69) Aghahowa comes in
-('72) His arrival has inspired
the whole team. Kanu has another big scene
-('73) Now it is Finidi,
but his finishing misses the target close
-('74) problematic shot
by Mkhalele, but Shorunmu is there
-('75) Nigeria: another
Babangida slalom - he sets up Aghahowa but Arendse throws himself into
his shot, the rebounding attempt by Kanu is wide
-('75) Nigeria: Ikpeba returns
- he comes on for Babangida
-('76) South Africa: Nomvete
solo run points out he is still there but the others waste the ball
-('77) South Africa: Mosheou
far off target
-('77) South Africa: Lekoelea
on for Fortune
-('80) South Africa: Ndlanya
comes on for Nomvete
-('82) Kanu sets up Ikpeba,
but a defender is right there to block his shot
-('85) South Africa: Mkhalele
shot, saved by Shoronmu without much problem
.('86) Adepoju wins a corner
- which leads to a Ikpeba shot which is to weak to pass Arendse
-('88) It's showtime for
-('89) Ikpeba wants a goal
desperately, but his shot on a counter attack is wide
-('injury time) Okunowu
comes in to eat some more time off the clock
final result 2:0
Playing two hosts in a row
has proved too much for the South Africans. Nigeria, lifted into the driver's
seat by the first minute goal, was unstoppable. They look forward to the
climax on Sunday: The Nations Cup final against either Cameroon or Tunisia