The rivalry between Nigeria and South Africa on the football pitch enters the 14th episode at the Cairo International Stadium on Wednesday.
The Super Eagles have had no victory over Bafana Bafana in almost five years with the South Africans in a confident mood after knocking out the hosts, Egypt.
The Eagles were also poor in the group stage but played their best game in a long while by coming from behind to upstage the defending champions, Cameroon.
If the Eagles want to march on in Egypt, they must take on board the lessons learned during the match against Cameroon.
Play at least one totally offensive-minded flanker
Gernot Rohr started both Ahmed Musa and Moses Simon as his two inverted wingers against Cameroon. But both were too defensive-minded to really get at the Cameroonian defenders even though Musa was all speed and ready to take on his marker at every opportunity.
The game finally swung the Eagles’ way immediately Samuel Chukwueze was introduced.
In a match that is going to be tight against the Bafana Bafana, the Eagles will need an outlet to give them the edge against a well-drilled defensive unit.
Improve communication between defence and midfield
Against a team that boasts great transition after winning the ball, the Super Eagles would be better served when Oghenekaro Etebo and Wilfred Ndidi are on the same wavelength.
This means both players cannot be caught attacking or caught square at the same time – the scenario which developed for Eric Choupo-Moting and led to the Lions’ equaliser.
Solace Chukwu, writing after the 3-2 victory said, “Nigeria would go in behind at the break, but turned it around in the second period. The key here was a subtle but effective change of system to a 4-1-4-1…”.
The system changed from a flat 4-3-3 with Ndidi standing in front of the defence and Etebo pushed higher up the pitch.
Defend long balls through middle better
The second goal by the Lions was through a long punt up the field and headed on. With two touches, the Eagles were defending in their box. On that occasion, Ola Aina got his bearings totally wrong to leave Clinton Njie the simple task of side-footing past Daniel Akpeyi.
Contest crosses all the time
Both fullbacks – Chidozie Awaziem and Ola Aina – were guilty of allowing the opposition to get into good crossing areas to deliver dangerous crosses.
Awaziem and Aina should do all they can to prevent crosses and corner kicks. In real tactical terms, however, it means the fullbacks are being isolated – shorn of protection either from the two defensive midfielders or the wingers.
Rohr must make more decisive changes
The Eagles were largely floundering before the German sent on Samuel Chukwueze in the 60th minute and then the team played more on the front foot and got the two goals that turned the match in Nigeria’s favour.
Managers can get their starting lineup wrong, but it can be corrected as soon as the mistake is discovered. There is nothing bad against an early but tactical change.