Afcon 2023: Can African heavyweights survive semi-finals?

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Nigeria face South Africa in Bouake in a repeat of the 2000 Nations Cup semi-final, with the Super Eagles beating Bafana Bafana as the countries met for the first time at the tournament.

The West Africans have the upper hand in meetings at Afcon, winning all three encounters – with the most recent of those a quarter-final tie in 2019.

Playing in a record-extending 15th Afcon semi-final, Nigeria have impressed both in attack and in defence, where they have won their past four games without conceding a goal – their best run at a Nations Cup.

With Frank Onyeka winning over his critics to provide a solid platform in central midfield, the likes of Ademola Lookman and Moses Simon have been liberated – with the latter creating the only goal of the quarter-final against Angola for the former, who has scored half of Nigeria’s six goals.

“We’ve got a lot of faith in our defensive structure and in the final third we’re frightening,” defender Semi Ajayi told BBC Sport Africa.

Coach Jose Peseiro has repeatedly said a clean sheet will guarantee a win for his side given their prowess up front, where reigning African Footballer of the Year Victor Osimhen has impressed with his non-stop running and pressing despite only scoring once.

Former Nigeria international Sunday Oliseh has praised Osimhen’s ‘leadership and hunger’,, external with the latter a key word for a team that – unlike previous Super Eagles sides – looks fully focused.

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