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OPINION: Bafana's decade of Nigerian misery

It's becoming a matter of serious concern now that South Africa's men's senior national team cannot beat even the weakest Nigerian side, on home soil when, on paper, they are the most formidable and highly capable of beating any team.

However, it is important to note that matches are not won on paper and if, on the day, you do not take the chances that fall your way, the result will not miraculously favour you.

With that said, our dismal record against the Super Eagles can't be taken lightly any more as it's bordering on embarrassing and turning a very proud football nation into the laughing stock on the African continent.

Ten years and four months. That's how long Bafana Bafana have gone without a win over Nigeria in a football match. In that time, we have had three Fifa World Cups and six Africa Cup of Nations tournaments.

In that time, we have played Nigeria seven times, lost four of those and only managed three draws, scoring five goals against them and conceding 11. These are worrying statistics and some questions need to be answered.

Looking at yesterday's game, one would say that Bafana were desperately in need of some good fortune. But that was the story told after our exit from Afcon 2015, and I don't think it can be a story we continue to hear, especially when the team is always evidently the stronger of two in a match, dominating possession and creating all the telling chances.

It's come to a point where our players need to start making their own luck, determining their own fate and converting their own chances.

At the Mbombela Stadium, there was no excuse why coach Shakes Mashaba's men could not have won the match by at least three goals to one, with all the balls that found their way into the Nigerian danger area.

It can't be said that we may have lacked experience up front, which tends to be the go-to excuse, because the coach fielded the tried and tested, yet it still proved to be a frustrating afternoon as we struggled to find the back of the net.

Once again, we were gifted with a chance to put the opposition under some pressure and capitalise on a wealth of opportunities, when the referee blew for a penalty after Thulani Serero was brought down in the box. But from what I could see from body language and execution, we took the opportunity for granted, thus resulting in Andile Jali having his effort thwarted.

Disappointment brought back all the bitter memories of the crucial penalty Tokelo Rantie missed against Algeria in South Africa's opening match of Afon 2015 in Equatorial Guinea.

Just as Mashaba's charges did in that match against Algeria, they paid for the error and found themselves on the back foot in the 85th minute thanks to one of the most beautiful right-footed goals you will ever witness, from dangerman Ahmed Musa.

That goal was testament to Nigeria's resilience and tactical superiority as it came out of absolutely nothing, at a time when the 2013 African champions were doing all they could to fend off avalanches of attacks from the South African strike force.

A positive from that game, however, is that we also knew how to dig deep, fight to the very end and grind out a result at all costs, which we eventually did as Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder Bongani Zungu pounced on a loose ball in the box and buried it, seconds before the ref called time on the match.

Bafana should never have to make life that difficult for themselves, not when the match is clearly going according to plan, but their attitude in those dying minutes was something to be proud of and to commend.

Onwards and upwards for coach Mashaba and his troops.

_Morena Mothupi is sports reporter at Eyewitness News. _ Follow him on Twitter @_Mrena.

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