Our soccer analyst previews the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier between South Africa and Libya which takes place on Saturday 8 September 2018.
Bafana Bafana face Libya at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday in a 2019 AFCON Qualifier. These sides are tied of three points after winning their respective opening fixtures and they will both be looking to open up the gap between them and third-placed Nigeria as well as bottom-placed Seychelles who are both on zero points at this stage. FIFA rankings and home ground advantages point to Bafana Bafana winning this one comfortably but will they manage to do what’s expected of them against this potential banana skin?
African Cup of Nations
South Africa vs Libya
Saturday 8 September
Moses Mabhida Stadium
South Africa 6/10
In terms of FIFA rankings, Bafana Bafana are 15th in Africa while their visitors rank 21st which makes Stuart Baxter’s men overwhelming favourites. However, their preparations for this clash haven’t been plain sailing as they started with goalkeeper coach Andre Arendse asking to be withdrawn from camp due to family commitments. The head coach’s son and current Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper coach, Lee Baxter, has been roped in to temporarily rescue the situation which has inevitably prompted talks of nepotism.
Speaking of withdrawals, Hlompho Kekana, Bongani Zungu and Themba Zwane won’t be available for selection due to injuries. Vincent Pule, Aubrey Modiba and Tiyani Mabunda have been called up to replace them. In form striker, Bradley Grobler, and his SuperSport United teammate, Dean Furman, sat out Monday’s training as they’re nursing knocks that they picked up in their team’s 1-0 victory over Kaizer Chiefs this past weekend.
Add France-based Lebo Mothiba’s name to that long injury list, as Baxter has called up Bidvest Wits’ Mxolisi Macuphu to replace him the squad. In the team’s first training session only 12 players took part and the coach will be hoping to have all players in camp before it’s too late to start working on his combinations. If the South Africans display the same kind of commitment they showed against Nigeria in the opener which they won 2-0, Libya will have a long day at the office in a vociferous Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs), Ronwen Williams (SuperSport United), Darren Keet (Bidvest Wits).
Defenders: Ramahlwe Mphahlele (Kaizer Chiefs), Motjeka Madisha (Mamelodi Sundowns), Siyanda Xulu (Maritzburg United), Innocent Maela (Orlando Pirates), Thulani Hlatshwayo, Sfiso Hlanti, Buhle Mkhwanazi (All Bidvest Wits).
Midfielders: Dean Furman, Teboho Mokoena, Aubrey Modiba (All SuperSport United), Siphesihle Ndlovu (Maritzburg United), Sibusiso Vilakazi, Tiyani Mabunda (Both Mamelodi Sundowns), Kamohelo Mokotjo (Brentford, England).
Strikers: Vincent Pule (Orlando Pirates), Keagan Dolly (Montpellier, France), Percy Tau (Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, Belgium), Mxolisi Macuphu (Bidvest Wits), Bradley Grobler (SuperSport United).
Libya can’t be underestimated as they cruised to a convincing 5-1 victory over Seychelles in their opener. According to Libyan reports, the country’s most successful club, AL-Ahli Tripoli, instructed its players not to travel with the squad that went to camp in Cairo as they’re not in good terms with Egypt.
Coach Adel Amrouch responded by threatening to ban those abstaining from joining the team from ever playing for Libya during his time at the helm of the national team. Al-Ahli has 11 players in the national side and if this scandal continues, the team will suffer. The last time Libya, who ranks at 101 in the world, qualified for the AFCON was back in 2012 and they will be gunning for their fourth AFCON appearance in history.
The Mediterranean Knights are a growing nation in terms of reviving their football post the Muammar Al Gaddafi as for the first time since 2008 they have four teams in CAF competitions for the 2018/19 season. They should also prove a very tricky opponent as they’re more like a closed book to the hosts which a bulk of their players based in the domestic league.
Baxter did allude to the fact that their opponents play as a team and it must be noted that in their opener, they had five different players on the scoresheet.
Prediction: Prediction: South Africa (6/10)
Over the years, South Africa has disappointed against lesser opponents and this encounter presents a golden opportunity for redemption. The team might be without the likes of Zungu, Kekana and Zwane, but the other midfielders are equally capable of producing the goods and Grobler’s current form will be key in terms of helping the national side produce the goods. My money is on Bafana Bafana.