Angola v South Africa | Estadio Nacional de Ombaka, Benguela | Friday 13 November | 16:30
Shakes Mashaba’s Bafana Bafana have been pitted against Angola in the second round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Bafana will travel to Angola in the first leg, before hosting ‘Sable Antelopes’ in the return leg. The 20 winning teams from the second round of the qualifiers will be split into five groups, with the eventual winners from each group qualifying for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.
South Africa 11/4
Angola will face Bafana Bafana for the third time in the space of five weeks. Palancas Negras qualified for the 2016 Chan tournament despite losing 2-1 to South Africa at the Luanda Stadium last time out, as the former emerged 3-2 winners on aggregate. South Africa were looking to grab a victory over Angola, who were leading 2-0 on aggregate following their win in the first leg, but could only manage a 2-1 win. However, both sides only fielded homegrown players, meaning players abroad were ineligible.
Prior to the defeat suffered by South Africa, manager Romeu Filemon’s Angola, were on an unbeaten run of four matches, including a 4-2 aggregate victory over Swaziland in the 2016 Chan qualifiers -drawing 2-2 away before ousting their opponents 2-0 at home. They are also undefeated in the AFCON Qualifiers after two matches, scoring four goals without conceding. Angola started those qualifiers with a 4-0 home win over the Central African Republic before playing to a disappointing goalless draw in Madagascar. However, they will now turn their attention to qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and their first assignment will be to defeat South Africa in another two-legged encounter.
Angola‘s most dangerous player is without a doubt, former Manchester United forward Manucho Dias. He is tall and agile, but and has the pace to run in behind opposing defenders. Angola will look to him to get the ball rolling; he is their go-to-man and Bafana’s man to keep a close eye on.
Prior to the 3-2 aggregate defeat against Angola, South Africa were on a three-match unbeaten run. Bafana first edged Senegal 1-0 on home soil in the Nelson Mandela challenge, before their tour of Central America, where they earned a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica and then drew 1-1 with Honduras.
Playing away from home in the first leg could benefit coach Mashaba’s team, who are known to play quick counter-attacking football. Bafana also like to have a lot of the ball, so it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if they dominate possession. However, possession football only takes you so far, South Africa will need to be lethal in front of goal and make sure they take every opportunity that comes their way.
Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper, Brilliant Khuzwayo, has been called up to the Bafana Bafana squad to replace the injured Itumeleng Khune. Khune has been ruled out for both legs against Angola after injuring his knee in training. Andile Jali and Dean Furman will be tasked with dominating the middle of the park. Jali will keep the ball rolling with his inch-perfect passing, while Furman breaks down play, turning defence into attack. Thulani Serero is Bafana’s most creative and effective player. The Ajax playmaker has the vision and skill to take his team forward with his silky touches and quick feet. He will be looking to unleash Thamsanqa Gabuza and Sibusiso Vilakazi, who are likely to spearhead the focal point of attack.
Gabuza, has been in top form for Orlando Pirates, and was even nominated for CAF’s Africa-based Player of the Year award after his impressive efforts in the CAF Confederations Cup.
Verdict: South Africa 11/4
In the 10 meetings between the sides post-1996, Bafana Bafana have only lost once to Angola. Angola are ranked 97th in the world and 26th on the continent, compared to South Africa 73rd and 17th respectively. Back South Africa to come away with the all-important victory.