Bafana confident they have answers to Super Eagles' strikers



BOUAKÉ: Ivory Coast -- South Africa are quietly confident they have Nigeria's strikers well scouted ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations semifinal on Wednesday, with video analyst Sinesipho Mali being hailed as the team's "secret weapon."

Bafana Bafana had Mali to thank after advancing past Cape Verde 2-1 on penalties in Saturday's quarterfinal in Yamoussoukro, as goalkeeper Ronwen Williams pulled off four shootout saves after a 0-0 draw to set up the meeting with Nigeria.

Now, Mali and head coach Hugo Broos are confident the analyst's work behind the scenes will help them get the better of the three-time champions.

"Nigeria are a team who become better and better every game, and again [vs. Angola] they are a good team with a great striker [Osimhen]," Broos told ESPN.

"We're going to have to analyse a little bit more now. We have the [time before the match], so we'll start and see how we can exploit the weaknesses in the team, but also be aware of their qualities.

"We prepare everything so well, and [Mali] does fantastic work."

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Williams, who became the first keeper to save four spot kicks in a single AFCON, also praised Mali after the quarterfinal vs. Cape Verde, having also made several big stops during the course of the encounter.

"I give credit to the analyst and the goalkeeper coach as well," Williams said. "They prepare me, they cut so many videos, study the clips, pick up the trends, send them to me, so credit to them.

"My phone is full of penalty kicks, and it's not easy to get footage of some of these players, playing all over the world, so big ups to the analyst for prepping me.

"It makes my job 50% easier to know which way they're going."

Broos said: "In the end, it's Ronwen who decided in the moment, but he had all the information, and it helps. Very nice work by the video analyst."

Mali should have no trouble finding clips of Osimhen -- Africa's Footballer of the Year -- to share with Williams ahead, even if the Napoli superstar has scored only once at AFCON. There is a doubt over whether he will play though, after news of abdominal discomfort came out on Monday.

Osimhen, 25, became the first African top scorer in the Italian Serie A when he netted 26 as Napoli won the Scudetto last season, and already has seven goals in 13 league outings amid an injury-troubled 2023-24 campaign.

He isn't the only Super Eagles player whom Mali will need to research closely.

"They have a few other good players, including [Ademola Lookman], who scored the goal [vs. Angola]," Broos said.

"He's a very good player."

Mali previously served on the scouting team of South African Premier Soccer League heavyweights Kaizer Chiefs and Chippa United, and he was appointed video analyst by Banyana Banyana head coach Desiree Ellis ahead of the 2023 Women's World Cup -- at which South Africa reached the knockout stages.

Last year, he also became the youngest African to acquire the International Elite Scouting qualification from the UEFA Academy.

Keywords: Ivory Coast AFCON South Africa Africa Cup of Nations Nigeria 

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