It’s international week with continental qualifiers, World Cup qualifiers and friendlies to entertain the football loving planet. South Africa travel to Mauritania this weekend in what is a must-win match for both sides as they look to challenge Cameroon for qualification.
In Africa we gear up for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations with qualifiers for the tournament resuming this weekend. There are thirteen groups of four with only the top ranked sides and two best second-placed teams to accompany hosts Gabon to the 2017 AFCON. South Africa are in Group M alongside African giants Cameroon as well as Gambia and their opponents this weekend Mauritania. Cameroon sit top of the group after the first round of matches, beating Mauritania, while South Africa started their campaign in disappointing fashion, drawing at home to Gambia. South Africa travel to Mauritania this weekend in what is a must-win match for both sides as they look to challenge Cameroon for qualification.
To Win (90mins)
South Africa 9/10
Mauritania are regarded minnows on the African continent and will be looking to cause an upset against South Africa. Coached by Frenchman Corentin Martins, Mauritania have never managed to reach an AFCON, but their mentor has stated his confidence they can cause a few upsets and he has reason to believe so. The north-west Africans were the biggest climbers from the continent in the latest FIFA rankings. The largely desert country rose fifteen places to 33rd in Africa and 113 in the world thanks to two victories over Sierra Leone in the African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifiers. They have been steadily improving and were unlucky to lose their AFCON qualifier 1-0 to four-time African champions Cameroon in June, prior to their 2-0 and 2-1 CHAN victories over Sierra Leone. Mauritania contained the Indomitable Lions in their own backyard until the final minute when Porto striker Vincent Aboubakar snatched the match-winning goal for the hosts. Mauritania’s defence was resilient throughout, giving Cameroon very few clear cut scoring opportunities. A victory over traditional poor travellers South Africa at Stade Olympique in Nouakchott would bring Mauritania back into contention to win Group M.
Les Mourabitounes’ form has been up and down in recent times, but one thing that is clear is that they have been much stronger when playing at home. Since 2014 they have played 10 away games, managing three wins and losing seven times. Their home record, however, has been much better as they have won four of their last five games in Mauritania, losing just once to Uganda by a sole goal. Bafana Bafana can’t afford to take their opponents lightly as they have brought down the likes of Niger, Mauritius and Equatorial Guinea when playing in front of their passionate home support. Their squad mainly consists of players plying their trade in their minor domestic league but they also have a good source of overseas based talent, mainly from lower league French clubs and neighbouring North African teams.
Ever since the qualifying draw for AFCON 2017 was conducted Bafana knew that matches against Mauritania and Gambia were must-win games if they were to compete with Cameroon for top spot in Group M. However, they started the qualifiers for next year’s tournament in Gabon in dull fashion, drawing goalless at home to Gambia on June 13, missing several goal scoring chances in a match they dominated. Group favourites Cameroon await Shakes Mashaba’s team in March next year and anything less than three points here could see Bafana with no chance if they again fail to impress when tackling Cameroon. Mashaba has rewarded Tsepo Masilela for his sterling performances for Kaizer Chiefs over the past year-and-a-half by calling up the experienced left-back. Masilela, who has had his injury problems in the past, has been overlooked by Mashaba in recent times despite consistent performances for Chiefs. Shakes has selected 25 players for this encounter, however two players will be released as only 23 players will travel to Mauritania. The overseas contingent consists of Andile Jali (K.V. Oostende), Mandla Masango (Randers FC), Ayanda Patosi (Lokeren), Daylon Claasen (1860 Munchen), Thulani Serero (Ajax Amsterdam) and Tokelo Rantie (Bournemouth). Notable absentees in this squad include Dutch based Kamohelo Mokotjo and the in-from Orlando Pirates trio of Oupa Manyisa, Kermit Erasmus and Thabo Rakhale.
VERDICT: South Africa 9/10
South Africa are priced up at a decent 9/10 for the win while the Bafana critics can get 28/10 for the home win or 21/10 available for those who believe that South African attackers can’t even strike a match. Bafana know they have to win and looking at the likes of Thulani Serero, Dean Furman, Andile Jali, Sibusiso Vilakazi and Tokelo Rantie not to mention an ever solid defence, Bafana should manage the three points here.