South Africa vs Senegal | Friday 23 January | Mongomo | 21:00
South Africa will be hoping to get back to winning ways when they take on the Lions of Teranga on Friday night in what will be a crucial match for Bafana Bafana. Shakes Mashaba’s team have never beaten Senegal having played them three times with two draws and one defeat, but all of that will need to change if Bafana want to progress to the last eight as victory is essential in keeping their hopes alive.
To Win (90mins)
South Africa 11/4
Bafana Bafana paid the price for not taking chances as their ten-match unbeaten streak under Mashaba was brought to a crushing end, beaten 3-1 by Algeria in their opening match of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations. Mashaba’s side stunned the Algerian defence for most of the game but failed to convert their chances including a missed penalty that would have surely seen a different ending had it been inches lower. Things did not go South Africa’s way with Rivaldo Coetzee limping off early on, Dean Furman’s strike hitting the woodwork, and of course Tokelo Rantie’s miss from the penalty spot. In Bafana’s defence, Algeria should have been playing with ten men for most of the second half. However, they only have themselves to blame against Africa’s number one ranked team. Bafana will need to move on and focus on beating Senegal which will be another difficult contest.
One good thing for Shakes, apart from seeing a new referee, will undoubtedly be the return of Eric ‘Tower’ Mathoho. The Kaizer Chiefs defender was sorely missed against the Desert Foxes and will definitely tighten the defence. With Coetzee a major doubt for the clash, Thulani Hlatshwayo should keep his place. Captain Furman is the main man in the squad and his discipline will be needed to thwart the attacking threats that Senegal have. The former Chelsea and Rangers youth player has the ability to pick any pass that he wants and create opportunities for the strikers. Shakes should change to a faster paced 4-4-2 formation with Oupa Manyisa and Thuso Phala out on the flanks, Andile Jali and Furman to sit inside in order to break down play while Rantie and Sibusiso Vilakazi will lead the line and look to get themselves on the score-sheet.
After going a goal down to Ghana inside the first fourteen minutes through an Andre Ayew penalty, the Teranga Lions roared back and hit the bar through Kara Mbodj, before Stoke striker Mame Biram Diouf nodded in an equaliser and Moussa Sow went on to wrap up the win. That was their fifth consecutive victory following wins over Egypt, Botswana, Gabon and Guinea. They are on fire at the moment. The Lions are blessed with attacking prowess and boast one of the most fearsome and powerful midfield trios in African football with Papa Diop, West Ham’s Cheikhou Kouyate and Alfred N’Diaye. Kouyate is the heartbeat of that midfield three, holding the team together in the middle of the park and adding the steely presence to push the side forward into the final third. There’s plenty of goals in this team with high profile strikers such as Sow, Diouf, Sadio Mane, Papiss Cisse and Henri Saivet. Mane, if fit, will have a big part to play for the Lions. With six goals in sixteen international games, the Southampton forward’s uncontrollable thirst for goals makes him a valuable player for the Lions of Teranga.
VERDICT: Senegal 21/20
Bafana were exciting and disappointing at the same time. They failed to take their chances against Algeria and as a result got punished in the process. Should Bafana fail to win, much of the hard work they’ve done so far could all be in vain. I’d love to be confident and had we got a result against the Desert Foxes I might have been, but time and time again they build you up to let you down. Senegal are deadly in attack and I can’t see South Africa stopping them. It should be a tight affair but Senegal look good for the win. I hope I’m wrong.