BY STEVE AYOO
Nigeria boss Gernot Rohr believes that South Africa are ‘the new favorites’ to win the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations after they eliminated hosts Egypt in the round of 16.
The Bafana Bafana stunned the hosts, themselves and the entire continent as a solitary Thembinkosi Lorch goal earned them a 1-0 win over the tournament hosts.
The victory set them up for a quarterfinal clash against Nigeria in Cairo, Wednesday evening. The Super Eagles themselves claimed a huge win, kicking out title holders Cameroon 3-2 but despite his own side’s impressive result, Rohr feels Bafana have the edge.
“They [South Africa] deserved to win [against Egypt] because they were the better team and now for me, if you beat the favourite number one in Egypt, you become the new favorites,” said the German coach.
“We also had a good game against Cameroon, we also have confidence, so we should be expecting a match of high quality.
“I think the strengths of our team is the unity and the fighting spirit – and even against South Africa, which has suddenly become the new favourites of the tournament.
“We also have confidence after scoring three goals against a team [Cameroon] who did not concede a goal in the group stage, so we’re confident also – but for me South Africa are the favourites.”
The two sides know each other well having met during the qualifiers. South Africa won 2-0 away with the replay ending 1-1.
Bafana’s unsung hero in goal goalkeeper Ronwen Williams feels they are getting better.
“We had a slow start, our preparations were not the best and the further we go, the better we can become. The confidence is growing; I think the coach has found the right balance,” he said.
South Africa were lucky to get to the round of 16 after losing two of their three group D matches. However, they made full use of their luck by dominating and eventually eliminating Egypt. They will need to go again and beat Nigeria if Stuart Baxter is to keep his job. Baxter is unbeaten in his two meetings against Nigeria who are on a five-game winless drought against the 1996 champions. However, the Eagles were victorious in their previous two meetings with South Africa at Afcon, winning 2-0 in 2000 and 4-0 four years later. It’s gonna be a tight match this and has extra time written all over it. If Nigeria don’t win it in normal time, I’ll fancy Bafana to win the shootout.