Our soccer expert previews the crunch FIFA World Cup qualifier between South Africa and Senegal which takes place on Friday 10 November 2017.
When two teams play each other twice in a trice, the first match is usually a cagey affair. This time, that’s not the case, with South Africa needing maximum points in both matches to qualify for the greatest soccer spectacle next year.
A dramatic turn of events sees Senegal have Sadio Mane recovering from injury that was expected to keep him out of the clash, while the hosts are on the cusp of losing their number one goalkeeper, Itumeleng Khune, who suffered an optical fracture this past weekend. Will we be able to cope against one of the biggest footballing heavyweights in Africa? Let’s find out…
World Cup Qualifier | Friday 10 November | Peter Mokaba Stadium | 19:00
South Africa 19/10 | Draw 2/1 | Senegal 16/10
Stuart Baxter’s men sit bottom of Group B with four points after four matches, that’s four points off the pace! It’s all in their hands now as they play table-topping Senegal twice, meaning if they beat them on both occasions, they make it to Russia irrespective of what happens in the match between Burkina Faso and Cape Verde.
Bafana Bafana are sweating over the fitness of one of their key players, goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune. “Spiderkid” suffered a fracture to a bone on his face in his football club’s Telkom Knockout victory over Chippa United. The team has been poor without him as Wayne Sandilands and Ronwen Williams have produced below-par performances in national team colours.
Bongani Zungu is still unavailable for the clash as he got sent off for violent conduct in the match against Burkina Faso and the ban has been reduced to one game after SAFA appealed against it. Andile Jali who started alongside Zungu and Kamohelo Mokotjo in midfield is also serving his one match suspension due to accumulation of yellow cards. On the upside, captain Thulani Hlatshwayo is back from injury.
The Lions of Taranga come into this one needing at least a draw to ensure qualification. If they win they qualify with a match to spare, and if they draw it will come down to tie-breaking statistics with whoever wins the match between Cape Verde and Burkina Faso if they don’t cancel each other out. The permutations are highly favouring them as they have a second bite of the cherry at home in the return leg, irrespective of the result.
Senegal have received a major boost as arguably the continents best player, Sadio Mane, is back from injury and he appeared for his Liverpool side this past weekend. What makes this clash even more intriguing is the nature in which the initial match unfolded. South Africa won it 2-1 and the Senegalese Football Federation appealed the result, hence the replay. It will be a very interesting grudge match.
Prediction: South Africa (19/10)
South Africa are having potentially three key players unavailable for selection but they managed very well with a depleted defence the last time out. They can count on home ground advantage and the fact that they’ve got nothing to lose, it’s a do or die match for them. Back them to win.