AFCON qualifier: Set the tempo Bafana!

Bafana Bafana players training (Gallo Images)
Bafana Bafana players training (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Qualification for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) begins this week and Bafana Bafana have an excellent chance of getting a positive result against Ghana in their opening Group C clash, Tashreeq Vardien reckons.

MUST READ: From 1994 to 2019: Bafana have upper hand over Ghana?

The 25-man South African squad assembled on Sunday and following a light training session, departed on Monday for the capital of Ghana, Accra.

Head coach Molefi Ntseki retained the majority of the players who represented South Africa against Mali last month in the Nelson Mandela Challenge, a match Bafana Bafana won 2-1 courtesy of goals from Dean Furman and Themba Zwane.

Unfortunately, one of the changes has been Zwane, as the Mamelodi Sundowns winger has withdrawn due to injury. He was replaced by the in-form Lebogang Manyama of Kaizer Chiefs.

Earlier this year, Bafana Bafana shocked the world in knocking out AFCON hosts Egypt in the last 16 of the competition in a performance that had the public slowly backing the national senior side  once again.

The Egypt victory showed that with the correct tactical plan and game management, Bafana Bafana can trouble any nation.

However, a few days later rivals Nigeria humbled Bafana Bafana in the quarter-finals as South Africa failed to trouble the Super Eagles' plucky defence.

That AFCON campaign was under the guidance of Stuart Baxter and following criticism from the public and media, the Scotsman called it quits in August.

The relatively unknown Ntseki took over initially on an interim basis, but later received a four-year contract which raised eyebrows in some quarters.

Ntseki has the chance to get the fans on his side with a result that can set the tone for South Africa's year-long AFCON qualifying campaign.

Opting to stick with the bulk of Baxter's often chosen players, Ntseki now has to continue to build a strong and cohesive squad.

Bafana have been blessed with talented goalkeepers in recent years and despite the trusted Itumeleng Khune's lengthy injury layoff, Ronwen Williams and Darren Keet have been astute in fulfilling duties between the posts.

It's South Africa's back-four that seems to be a bit of an issue. 

READ: Shortage of Chiefs, Pirates players in Bafana setup, Ntseki explains

Thulani Hlatshwayo and Buhle Mkhwanazi have been putting in the minutes for the national side as the first-choice centre-back pairing with Thamsanqa Mkhize and S'fiso Hlanti being deployed as fullbacks.

Dean Furman and Kamohelo Mokotjo are the trusted midfield pairing and, in all honesty, are doing a fine job in keeping the area in front of the defensive line clean.

However, with Bongani Zungu fit again, the former Mamelodi Sundowns midfield enforcer could be a welcome change in the middle of the park.

South Africa are reliant on playing with a No 10 and Thulani Serero has been that chosen player in recent years, but with Manyama in the mix again, the stocky Chiefs attacking midfielder has experienced a purple patch that should not be ignored.

Despite the lack of goals being an issue for South Africa, it is in the striking department that has fans excited again.

Kermit Erasmus has found a rich vein of form, along with Bradley Grobler, as the two are among the top scorers in the Absa Premiership.

But Lebo Mothiba and Percy Tau are the two players currently threatening defences in Europe.

Both continue to enjoy and ply their trade abroad in France and Belgium, respectively.

These two forwards are vital for South Africa and allowing them the freedom to roam and attack spaces can only benefit Bafana.

There is a firm belief that with a strong spine - goalkeeper, centre-back, central midfielder and striker - the team can challenge for silverware.

And that is South Africa's ultimate goal.

With that being said, Bafana Bafana can trouble Ghana's defence, but the hosts have attacking players that can punish South Africa's back-four.

It's sure to be a hostile environment at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium where Ghana and South Africa will clash, but shocking a home crowd - if beating Egypt is anything to go by - has been Bafana Bafana's thing this year.

So, do it again!

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