South Africa goalkeeper Rowen Williams is looking forward to the quarterfinals battle between his country and Nigeria’s Super Eagles and stated that the Bafana have turned a corner from their poor start to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
South Africa eliminated hosts Egypt in the Round of 16 of the tournament to set up a meeting with Nigeria who they defeated 2-0 in Uyo in their first 2019 AFCON qualifier.
The goalkeeper spoke in his team’s press conference on Tuesday ahead of Wednesday’s game in Cairo.
“Our performance in the opening first few games were not up to standard. We knew we could play better and we were getting a lot of flak and stick back home,” Williams reflected.
“So (in that win over Egypt) we were just basically reminding them (fans back home) to believe in the team because we didn’t come here to perform badly.
“We work hard every day but things were a bit tough in the Group Stages but we just needed to remind them to stick together as a nation, support us through thick and thin. You never know in football, be there and support us at all times,” his latter lines ominously referring to the Nigeria game.
“Positive criticism is always acceptable, the positive criticism we got we took it with the pinch of salt and we moved on and we proved to everyone that we are here to do our job as best as possible.
“We had a slow start, our preparations were not the best and the further we go, the better we can become. The confidence is growing; I think the coach has found the right balance.
‘We have been working hard to improve our weaknesses and we knew from beginning that we could get better. In the beginning, we didn’t create a lot chances but we were solid defensively but the last game we were positive on the offensive and we can only get better as the tournament progresses,” Williams stated.
Williams outlined the dividends of the defeat of Egypt by the 1996 winners of AFCON as they square off with Nigeria who failed to defend their AFCON title won in 1994 due to political tensions between both nations.
“The Saturday atmosphere was nice and it is always great to play in such atmosphere but for me as a keeper, it is not negative. It just means my back four will hear me better. My voice will have a bit of a break because I don’t have to shout louder,” he said with a smile.
The Nigeria versus South Africa game kicks off 8pm Nigerian time on Wednesday with the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) to be in use from this stage of the tournament.
By Izuchukwu Okosi