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Okocha reveals how Nigeria-South Africa rivalry started

Wednesday’s quarterfinal fixture will be the third time the two countries meet on the continental stage.


Nigeria legend Jay-Jay Okocha is looking forward to an “interesting” encounter when the three-time African champions lock horns with South Africa at the Cairo International Stadium.


Ahead of the quarterfinal outing at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, the two countries had previously met in the continental showpiece twice – in 2000 and 2004 – and the Super Eagles came out victorious on both occasions, with Okocha playing a key role in both.


The former Super Eagles captain has recalled how the rivalry between both countries started and why Cairo is a good venue for the match.


“It was great because before then I was personally looking forward to playing against Bafana Bafana because we were having this argument who the best African team is,” Okocha told the media.


“We felt Bafana won it in 1996 because we didn’t take part. I think we were on fire then, we were having our best period and that was the year we had won the Olympics [in Atlanta].


“But then the opportunity came in 2000, and for us it was personal to make sure that we get one over them.


“It was a bit easier because we were at home. So, it will be interesting to see both teams playing against each other on a neutral ground.”


Nigeria are yet to defeat South Africa in their last five outings, settling for four draws and a loss against Bafana Bafana, which came in 2017 during Afcon qualifying series.


Okocha is not bothered by the recent head-to-head results but thinks the encounter will be decided by the players’ performances on Wednesday.


“I think it’s always easier to sit on the outside and act as if you have the best solution. But I’ve played the game at the highest level and I can tell you my opinion,” he continued.


“You can come up with whatever tactics you want as a coach but if you don’t have the tools to execute you will struggle, and if you don’t have willing players that are ready to commit to the cause then you will struggle.


“I think it’s all about the players’ mindset on the day and the team that wants it more.”

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