9ja FlavourNigeria FootballOff the PitchSuper EaglesWorld Cup qualifiers

Okocha Highlights rivalry distraction as Nigeria and South Africa falter in World Cup Qualifiers

Super Eagles legend Austin Okocha has attributed the underwhelming start of Nigeria and South Africa in the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers to their focus on the historic rivalry between the two teams.

Both nations failed to secure maximum points in their opening matches, with Nigeria drawing 1-1 against Lesotho and Zimbabwe, while South Africa suffered a 2-0 defeat to Rwanda after an initial 2-1 win over Benin Republic.

Okocha expressed disappointment with the performances of Nigeria and South Africa , so suggested that the intense rivalry may have distracted them from adequately preparing for the challenges posed by other teams in their group, particularly Rwanda, who currently lead Group C with four points from two games.

In a statement to Sunday World, Okocha remarked, “We [Nigeria and South Africa] didn’t get off to a good start, and I can say that we are lucky that Bafana Bafana lost their second game.

” I think we are focusing more on the rivalry between South Africa and Nigeria instead of focusing on qualifying. It’s a big surprise that Rwanda is topping the group.”

He emphasized the need for a change in mindset, urging both Nigeria and South Africa to shift their focus from the historic rivalry and concentrate on the qualification process.

The former Paris Saint-Germain playmaker stressed that the unexpected turn of events, with Rwanda leading the group, should serve as a wake-up call for both teams to approach the qualifiers with a renewed perspective.

As both nations look to bounce back in subsequent World Cup qualifying matches, Okocha’s insights highlight the importance of maintaining focus and strategic preparation, acknowledging the competitive landscape in African football beyond traditional rivalries.

The immediate challenge for Nigeria and South Africa is the upcoming 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, set to kick off on January 13 in Ivory Coast, where they will aim to showcase their football prowess on the continental stage.

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Related Articles

Back to top button
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x