Bafana chasing rare AFCON opening win

By Drum Digital
19 January 2015

Bafana Bafana kick off their Africa Cup of Nations campaign without history on their side, having won only three of their opening encounters from eight tournaments in which they have participated.

The South Africans take on tournament favourites Algeria in Mongomo, Equatorial Guinea, on Monday evening with Mashaba's men also drawn against Ghana and Senegal in one of the toughest groups in the competition.

Against Africa's number-one ranked Desert Warriors, the 12th ranked Bafana team would be looking to register their first opening match win since Afcon 2004 in Tunisia, where they were 2-0 victors over Benin.

However, victory has not always guaranteed automatic passage into the next round as was proven in that tournament where, despite their positive start, South Africa failed to progress further than the group stages.

The two other occasions where Bafana secured three points from their opening matches were in 1996, when they beat Cameroon 3-0 -- in a tournament they hosted and went on to win -- and in 2000 when they overcame Gabon 3-1, eventually losing to Nigeria, in Lagos, in the semi-finals.

However, it was not all bad news as they had only lost outright once --2-0 to Guinea in their opening match in 2006, in Egypt -- while they drew their first games in the remaining four of their Afcon appearances.

Bafana Bafana have surpassed expectations under coach Shakes Mashaba, who took over the reins last August. They surged through the tournament qualifiers and had remained undefeated in Mashaba's 10 matches in charge.

Although playing an attacking style, Bafana's defence had been impressive having only conceded four goals during those games.

Their performances away from home had been particularly impressive, beating Sudan and Congo-Brazzaville on foreign turf, and would stand them in good stead in West Africa.

Bafana also enjoyed satisfactory pre-tournament preparations, having beaten Zambia (1-0) and Mali (3-0), and drawn with Cameroon (1-1).

Despite history being against them in the opening match, the one thing Bafana had going for them was form and they could use it to knock Algeria off their perch.

-SAPA

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