Bafana still have a chance

2015-01-27 00:00

SOUTH African football fans will know the fate of the national side after tonight’s final round of fixtures in group C at Afcon 2015.

Bafana’s 9 pm clash against Ghana in Mongomo will be their last participation at the tournament if they do not win. And even if they do win, then they could still be eliminated. It all gets a bit complex looking at the permutations (see below), but all four sides in the group go into today’s matches with their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages still intact.

Bafana lie bottom of the group with one point from their opening two matches. A gritty performance against Senegal on Friday night saw them escape with a 1-1 draw, following the self-destruction that was the 3-1 loss to Algeria in the tournament opener.

While they have looked accomplished with the ball at their feet, Bafana were dominated aerially by Senegal and that will serve as a lesson going into tonight’s date with Avram Grant’s Black Stars. Bafana are one of the shortest teams at the tournament and they will be better served using their pace out wide to get in behind the Ghanaian defence.

With Mashaba and company keeping a low profile this week, one man who hasn’t shied away from a word or two has been Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula. In Equatorial Guinea to lend his support to the team, who he last year infamously referred to as a “bunch of losers”, Mbalula expressed his confidence that the men in yellow possess the goods to do the business tonight.

“We are quite optimistic of what is coming our way in terms of the match against Ghana,” said Mbalula on “I firmly believe that we can still make it to the next round. This group has lived up to expectation and characterisation that it is a group of death, but we have always believed that in the group, we will come out alive.”

Everyone watching on home soil will desperately want to believe the minister, but even he knows that it is a long shot.

“Should we not make it past this round, we will not be disappointed because that is the nature of football,” he said. “Just being here was a great achievement in itself and generally we are happy as a nation from what we have seen. There is always next time. We will come back. But we will have exited with a wealth of experience.”

Bafana will go into tonight’s match without the services of injured centre back Thulani Hlatshwayo, who sustained a concussion against Senegal.

The fitness of Rivaldo Coetzee was still up in the air yesterday afternoon, but should he recover from his knee injury in time, then Bafana will be able to field their first-choice centre back pairing for the first time in the tournament, with the 19-year-old named alongside Erick Math­oho.

Group C


Senegal 2 1 0 1 3 2 4

Ghana 2 1 1 0 2 2 3

Algeria 2 1 1 0 3 2 3

SA 2 0 1 1 2 4 1

Tonight’s fixtures — 8 pm

Ghana v SA

Senegal v Algeria


• If Bafana Bafana lose or draw against Ghana, they will be knocked out.

• If Algeria draw against Senegal and Bafana Bafana win, both sides will be left on four points, but Algeria will progress, along with Senegal, due to their superior head-to-head record with South Africa.

• If Algeria beat Senegal and Bafana Bafana beat Ghana, then it will come down to goal difference to separate Bafana Bafana and Senegal.

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