CAIRO – Super Eagles striker Odion Ighalo has predicted a tough encounter against Bafana Bafana but says Nigeria will be ready for South Africa’s challenge in Wednesday’s quarterfinals of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.
Nigeria came through an explosive encounter against Cameroon in the Round of 16 with Ighalo notching up a brace in the 3-2 win in Alexandria while South Africa stunned hosts Egypt 1-0 in Cairo to advance to the quarterfinal with a team they beat and held to a draw during the qualifying series.
With local fans expected to cheer on the Super Eagles against the conquerors of their national team, Ighalo said Nigeria’s players must do enough on the pitch to justify the support. The marksman who has purloined three goals at the tournament so far said the team weren’t entirely happy with the 3-2 victory over the Indomitable Lions but are “fully prepared” to take on South Africa.
“I won’t say we are happy with the game against Cameroon, it was a very tough game and we are fully prepared for the game tomorrow,” Ighalo said at the pre-match press conference held today at the Cairo International Stadium.
“It is going to be a tough one and we are happy that the Egyptians are going to be on our side but we are the main actors in the game and we are going to be on the pitch and we have to our job because if we don’t do our job inside, there is no way you will get support from the fans. I know we are ready. It’s going to be a tough game but we are ready to go.”
Having already played South Africa in the qualifiers, the Super Eagles have a fair idea what to expect from Bafana Bafana and Ighalo believes South Africa’s pace and ball-playing abilities will present a very different tactical challenge for Nigeria as against the brawn of the Cameroonians.
“The South Africa game tomorrow, we have spoken about and we will still speak about it. We know it’s going to be even more difficult than the Cameroon game. These guys are very fast, they not as physical as Cameroon but they are very fast. They can play good football but we will talk about it and we will still train today and I believe the lads we have we are going to put in a good fight to make Nigerians proud.”
The Shanghai Shenhua of China said the players have learnt their lessons from the shock loss to Madagascar and have resolved there would be no repeats on Wednesday because “losing is not accepted”.
“We made some errors and took the Madagascar game for granted because we had already qualified,” Ighalo said.
“But we speak to ourselves and we know it’s the knockout stage now and any mistakes we will pay for it. Tomorrow, it’s going to be a tough game, you are going to see us come out because we know losing is not accepted. If we win tomorrow, we are going to the semifinal. Everybody is game ready, and we are going to show it tomorrow.”