Bafana Bafana have earned a tough draw in the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers as opponents Nigeria stand in their way to the tournament in North America.
Hugo Bruce’s side will have to take on Victor Osimhen’s Super Eagles, Benin, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Lesotho in Group C after the draw was made last night in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
All nine group winners qualify for the World Cup, while the four best-ranked runners-up will go through a play-off to decide which team will qualify for the inter-confederations play-offs.
The 2026 edition will be the first to be hosted by three countries, with the matches of the United States, Mexico and Canada taking place in 16 cities.
This will also be the first competition to feature 48 nations, and CAF has been allocated nine spots, compared to five when the World Cup finals featured 32 nations.
Bafana last played in the World Cup finals as host in 2010, while the last time they qualified was in 2002. They failed to qualify in 2014 in Brazil, 2018, Russia and 2022 since SA hosted the finals in 2010.
Bafana coach Bruce is hoping to get a solid performance from the young squad he has been building through to 2026, when the South Africans compete in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Ivory Coast in January and February. SA are unbeaten at home under Bruce, who is hoping Percy Tau’s performance at Al Ahly will continue to flourish ahead of the playoffs which kick off in November this year and finish in 2025.
Of course, the biggest stumbling block to the Broos’ job will be Nigeria, who in the past have brought grief to SA teams. In four World Cup qualifiers dating back to 1993, the Nigerian Eagles have won three, while SA managed a 0-0 home draw in 1994. Although Bafana managed their first official victory over Nigeria in 2017, In qualifying for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, Nigeria secured their revenge at the Africa Cup of Nations finals in Egypt, beating Stuart Baxter’s SA 2-1 in the quarter-finals – in what was the last meeting between the two sides.
Aside from facing Nigeria, Bafana must bolster himself against the rest of the Group C opponents, where the short trips to Lesotho and Zimbabwe will be less of a challenge.