Bafana Bafana must beat Morocco in their Afcon Group D match tomorrow to keep their hopes of qualifying for the next round alive.
This is despite their win over Namibia on Friday night because a win against the Atlas Lions will guarantee that they qualify for the Last 16.
Anything less than a win may leave South Africa’s hopes hanging by a thread until the last day of the first round of the competition, at the most.
Before this weekend’s fixtures, coach Stuart Baxter’s men were leading the queue of the best-ranked number three sides across the six groups after two rounds of matches.
Morocco have already sealed qualification to the next round after their back-to-back wins over Ivory Coast and Namibia in Group D.
This leaves South Africa and the Ivorians to battle it out for the group’s runners-up spot.
Should both sides win, they will be tied on six points and the CAF’s tie-breaker, the head-to-head rule, will come into play.
In this regard, Ivory Coast have the edge as they beat Bafana 1-0 in the opening match last Monday.
Third best sides are classified according to the number of points; goal difference; goals scored; disciplinary points (red card and cautions); and the drawing of lots.
Bafana captain Thulani Hlatshwayo said narrow margins in Group D illustrate the toughness of competition in the pool.
With the exception of the winless Namibia, the other teams in the group have registered 1-0 wins.
The Bidvest Wits skipper added that the win over Namibia gave his side a much-needed confidence boost heading into tomorrow’s match against Morocco at Al Salam Stadium.
“I think we are starting to get our engines on. The confidence is growing.
“It’s a do-or-die situation against Morocco. We have to go for three points to make sure that we go to the Last 16,” said the tough defender whose nickname is Tyson.
Hlatshwayo and central defence partner Buhle Mkhwanazi made vital clearances to keep Bafana in the game against Namibia.
Midfielder Bongani Zungu, who scored the winner against Namibia, said: “We need to continue with the hard work and carry our scoring form to the next game. We know it’s going to be a tough game against Morocco, but we’ll do our best to get the three points.”
Zungu was among the four changes that Baxter made to the squad that faced Namibia and his inclusion, alongside Hlompho Kekana in central midfield, partly brought the best out of Percy Tau, who earned the man of the match accolade.
Bafana are yet to play their best game considering that they still lack cohesion, but Tau’s individual brilliance lifted their game on Friday.
Baxter must devise a better plan and get the transition right.
Morocco centre their play on number 10 Younès Belhanda and Ajax Amsterdam star striker Hakim Ziyech, as well as their main front man, Youseff En-Nesyri.
Mixed bag for Cosafa teams in Egypt Afcon
Debutants Madagascar have, surprisingly, led the way for Cosafa member nations at Afcon.
The islanders are on the brink of a Last 16 qualification after their victory over Burundi and a 2-2 draw against Guinea handed them a dream start in their Group B matches in Egypt.
Madagascar are second in the pool with four points after two matches – two points behind leaders Nigeria, whom they face in their final group fixture in Alexandria today (6pm).
In Group A, the Zimbabwe camp has been overshadowed by allegations of a players’ bonus row. The Warriors meet the Democratic Republic of Congo in a game they need to win to be assured of a place in the knockout stage.
Zimbabwe lost 1-0 to hosts Egypt in their opening match and held Uganda 1-1 in their second outing.
Namibia are on the brink of elimination as they sit at the bottom of Group D after two losses. They face Ivory Coast in their final group fixture today (6pm).