Nigeria vs South Africa Afcon semi-final predictions
Nigeria and South Africa face off for a place in the Africa Cup of Nations final in their last four clash at the Stade de la Paix on Wednesday (5pm, BBC Two, Sky Sports Main Event).
The Super Eagles advanced to the semi-finals for the 15th time in their history after Ademola Lookman’s strike steered them past Angola in the last eight.
South Africa were grateful to one of the great penalty shootout performances from keeper Ronwen Williams, who made four saves to allow Bafana Bafana to advance at the expense of Cape Verde.
Nigeria have history on their side as they seek to win their fourth Afcon title, last lifting the championship in 2013. South Africa have gone 28 years without winning the tournament, and last qualified for the final in 1998 where they lost to Egypt.
Football betting sites have installed Nigeria as 8/13 favourites for the win, but you can find a price of 13/2 for Bafana Bafana to spring a surprise and dump the Super Eagles out.
Here are our predictions for the first Afcon semi-final.
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Can Nigeria’s defence produce another shutout?
The Super Eagles produced another efficient performance to reach the semi-finals. Lookman’s strike four minutes before half-time decided the contest as the forward notched his third goal of the competition.
But, once again it was Nigeria’s defence that was crucial in seeing the team over the line. The backline has been the foundation of their charge into the last four, conceding just one goal in five matches.
Angola were the tournament’s joint-top scorers entering the quarter-finals and there were a couple of close calls as Mabululu forced a fine save from Stanley Nwabali, while Zine struck the post in the second half.
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However, Jose Peseiro’s men held firm for most of the game to punch their ticket to the last four.
They face a South Africa side that has been goal shy in three of their five matches. Bafana Bafana failed to hit the back of the net in their quarter-final clash, relying on Williams’ exploits in the shootout to see them through.
The lack of cutting edge could be an issue against the Super Eagles, who have plenty of firepower in the final third with Lookman.
The defensive wall of William Troost-Ekong, Semi Ajayi and Calvin Bassey may hold firm again to allow Nigeria to reach the final. We’re backing the Super Eagles to win to nil at 6/5 with BetVictor.
Nigeria vs South Africa Tip 1: Nigeria to win to nil – 6/5 BetVictor
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Lookman to continue impressive form
Victor Osimhen was tipped to be the standout star for the Super Eagles in the tournament, but the Napoli forward has only scored once in five games.
Osimhen is a fitness doubt for the semi-final clash with an abdominal issue, which will put the onus on Lookman to once again flourish in the final third for Peseiro’s men.
The 26-year-old had been in good form for Atalanta in Serie A ahead of the competition, scoring seven goals in 18 appearances along with three assists. He made a good start to Afcon by teeing up Osimhen for Nigeria’s equaliser against Equatorial Guinea.
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But, in the last two matches, Lookman has been the key player in the box for the Super Eagles. He was on the spot against Cameroon with a match-winning brace and displayed his predatory instincts again in the win over Angola with a clinical finish.
If Osimhen does miss out, Lookman could be Nigeria’s focal point. After looking at betting apps, we’re backing him to score any time at 3/1 with BetUK.
Nigeria vs South Africa Tip 2: Ademola Lookman to score any time – 3/1 BetUK
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Look out for a Mvala card
South Africa have been one of the most disciplined teams at Afcon. Bafana Bafana have only collected six yellow cards in five games, but two of those cautions have been picked up by defender Mothobi Mvala.
The 29-year-old has been part of a South Africa backline that has kept four clean sheets on the bounce, including their impressive win over Morocco. Mvala has averaged 1.2 fouls per game, which suggests that he does not get away with a lot from the officials.
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If Osimhen does play, Mvala will have a tough one-on-one battle. If he doesn’t Paul Onuachu will pose a threat with his size and strength, while Lookman and Moses Simon’s pace and trickery will also cause problems for the Bafana Bafana defence.
Due to those factors, we’re taking Mvala to be shown a card at odds of 12/5 at bet365.
Nigeria vs South Africa Tip 3: Mothobi Mvala to be shown a card – 12/5 bet365
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Simon Sinclair is an experienced sports journalist, who has written for national publications for football, cricket, NFL and many more. He contributes tips on a wide range of sports for The Independent.