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Africa Cup of Nations

AFCON 2019: Nigeria showing right character and mentality

Nigerian players celebrate Samuel Chukwueze's goal against South Africa in the semifinals / CAF Image

If their is anything Nigeria will need to win a fourth Africa Cup of Nations, its their mental fortitude and mentality being up there.

Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr knows this too and looks like he has already seen the positive signs.

Nigeria defeated South Africa 2-1 on Wednesday to make the semifinals of 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations at the Cairo International Stadium. 

Samuel Chukwueze scored for Rohr’s men in the 27 minute of the game before Bongani Zungu, and South Africa needed Video Assistant Referee (VAR) for their equaliser to stand in the 72nd. 

Then William Troost-Ekong made the headlines for all the right reasons with his equalizer in the 89th minute to take Nigeria through. 

“Winning it in the dying minutes shows a lot of character in the team and that shows we are mentally strong and ready for the next game,” Rohr said after the game. 

“What I like about my team, they never give up, they never put their heads down, and this attitude will take us far.”

The game plan probably also worked for Nigeria, not sitting back after the break even when they knew South Africa was going to run at them. 

“During the halftime, we said it is still 0-0, so, we wanted to continue to attack to score goals but they also wanted to come back in the match.”

“They (South Africa) were down 1-0 and decided to go forward. But I think that we had so many opportunities to score and they had almost no chances. So we decided to let them [come out in order] to score the second goal [which] did not come.”

“And then we conceded this free-kick and the VAR decision you never know what can happen. We knew that they are good with their head, we tried to mark man to man but we conceded the goal from the set-piece unfortunately for us,” Rohr explained.

That’s when Nigeria’s mental fortitude came into play with a sucker punch in the dying moments of the game to march into the last four. 

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