'We can’t relax,' says Bafana's Mothiba ahead of Nigeria match
Bafana Bafana striker Lebo Mothiba has warned his teammates not to underestimate Nigeria’s attack after their key man up front and Afcon qualifiers leading scorer Odion Ighalo pulled out of Saturday’s clash at FNB Stadium.
Ighalo, who has scored six goals - including five in two games against Libya - in the qualifiers for next year’s Afcon, was excused from the Bafana tie after suffering a hamstring injury while playing for his Chinese Super League team Changchun Yatai last week.
The forward’s place was given to Henry Onyekuru, another Nigerian danger man who is on loan to Galatasaray in the Turkish league from English club Everton.
Mothiba, who has scored three goals in four appearance for Bafana and is leading scorer with seven league goals for RC Strasbourg in Ligue 1 in France this season, said Nigeria always have options and won’t be short of firepower up front because of Ighalo’s absence in Saturday’s all important match.
“We know that their best striker is injured but still we can’t say everything is done for us,” said Mothiba of the team that has defeated Bafana seven times in the previous 13 clashes between the two sides.
“We can’t relax because they have Ighalo out. We know that Nigeria have good striker with physic, strong and fast. So we just have to prepare ourselves by doing well at training for our game on Saturday.
"It's going to be a difficult game but we have to work hard at training, focus during game, play as a team and give everything.”
Bafana did beat Nigeria 2-0 in the first round tie in Uyo in June last year in a match that marked Stuart Baxter’s return as Bafana coach.
It was a game that Mothiba missed as the 22-year-old striker was not yet part of Bafana – and it was Tokelo Rantie and Percy Tau who got the goals for Baxter’s men in what was a first victory for Bafana in an official clash against the highly-rated Super Eagles.
Bafana’s only other victory (2-1) against Nigeria, also engineered by Baxter in his first spell with Bafana, was in an international friendly at Ellis Park in 2004.
While Nigeria need just one point to confirm their participation in next year’s showpiece in Cameroon, Bafana can only do so if they gain three points on Saturday – a task that is feasible given their home ground advantage and a number of Super Eagles stars who will be missing due to injuries and suspensions.