Jay-Jay Okocha may not have gone into coaching after bringing an end to his illustrious career, reports, South Africa’s IOL News, but the former Nigerian international’s technical analysis of the game is among the most sought after.
And so it was that when he was in town for a Bundesliga event, many clamoured for his views on what will transpire at the FNB Stadium on Saturday when his country takes on South Africa in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
“South Africa and Nigeria is always that kind of match where bragging rights are everything. So that will be a big motivating factor for both teams, especially for us because we lost the first match,” said the man, who played in Germany and England, to much applause.
At the start of the qualifiers for Cameroon 2019, Stuart Baxter’s Bafana Bafana achieved the unimaginable when they beat the Super Eagles in their own backyard.
It was South Africa’s first official victory over Nigeria since readmission to international football in 1992 and it raised hopes of Bafana strolling into qualification for the biennial, continental showpiece.
But draws with Libya and the Seychelles sandwiched a hammering of the Indian Ocean islanders to leave Bafana once again having to hope results elsewhere go in their favour to qualify.
Not so for Nigeria, who now top the group and come to Johannesburg under little pressure, if any.
“We have a slight advantage. A draw will be enough for us. South Africa are under pressure even though they might be confident because they beat us in the first leg. I know the teams are a little different now but we will take pride in getting revenge.”
Okocha though, knows just how demanding his countrymen can be of the national team and has called for patience as the technical team and the association work to bring back the glory days.
“We have a squad of good young players who can turn things around, they have the ability. But our problem is always great expectations. Let’s change our mentality and allow them to mature. The experience they got from the World Cup has built them and they will go on to achieve big things. I believe we’re on the right track. “
A former Bafana player, Rowen Fernandez, meanwhile has urged South Africa to make good use of home advantage.
“It is never ideal to be in the situation Bafana are in because it brings pressure. But the nice thing is that they are playing at home and they should capitalise on that, although that can sometimes put the team on the back foot if they do not start well. Also they have beaten Nigeria already and that win should be a confidence booster for the match.”
After the Nigeria game, Bafana will be left with an away clash with Libya to complete the qualifying campaign which will see the top two sides qualify for the Afcon.