Cape Town - Bafana Bafana face a tough task in qualifying for the 2022 Soccer World Cup to be hosted in Qatar after being drawn in Group G for the second round of the qualifying process at a ceremony held in Egypt on Tuesday.
Sport24 details what needs to happen for Bafana Bafana to clinch qualification to the showpiece event.
Molefi Ntseki's side - who are ranked 71st in the world rankings - now know their route to Qatar 2022 after being drawn alongside Ghana (47th in the world), Zimbabwe (111th) and Ethiopia (146th) in Group G.
What needs to happen for Bafana to qualify:
- Finish top of Group G (each of the 10 group winners will advance to a third qualifying round)
- The third round will see the 10 group winners from the second round drawn into five home-and-away ties. The draw will again follow a seeding basis as per the world rankings
- The winners of each tie will advance to the World Cup where five spots (out of 32) have been allocated to Africa.
Can Bafana finish top of Group G?
Looking at the general pattern of the final standings of previous World Cup qualifying groups and previous Champions League group standings, anything over the 10-point mark will be needed for Bafana to stand a realistic chance of finishing top of their group.
Any additional points over that magical benchmark will significantly increase their chances of finishing ahead of Ghana.
There won't be a better time to play the Black Stars, though, as they've just appointed the untested Charles Akonnor as their new head coach as of January 15, 2020 after a decision by the Ghana Football Association to dismiss all acting national team coaches.
If Bafana Bafana managed to pull off an upset and win Group G, they would then be drawn against one of the seeded sides - such as Senegal, Tunisia, Nigeria, Algeria and Morocco.
Some of the players Bafana Bafana could come up against in their qualifying campaign:
Ghana: Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace), Thomas Partey (Atletico Madrid), Christian Atsu (Newcastle United), Jeffrey Schlupp (Crystal Palace)
Zimbabwe: Khama Billiat (Sundowns), Kudakwashe Mahachi (Orlando Pirates), Evans Rusike (SuperSport), Willard Katsande (Kaizer Chiefs)
Ethiopia: Oumed Oukri (Smouha), Getaneh Kebede, Saladin Said (both Saint George S.C.)
Should Bafana Bafana reach Round 3 they could potentially face some of the best players in world football:
Senegal: Sadio Mané (Liverpool), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli), Idrissa Gueye (PSG), Cheikhou Kouyaté (Crystal Palace).
Nigeria: Kelechi Iheanachi, Wilfred Ndidi (both Leicester City), Alex Iwobi (Everton), John Obi Mikel (Trabzonspor), Leon Balogun (Brighton).
Morocco: Hakim Ziyech (Ajax), Sofiane Boufal (Southampton), Achraf Hakimi (Dortmund),
Additionally, players from other North African superpowers such as Egypt and Algeria boast the talents of Mohamed Salah and Riyaad Mahrez.
Bafana shouldn't be ruled out though as they do have the potential to cause an upset and qualify.
Battles against Nigeria over recent years - with a record of 1 Win, 1 Loss and 3 Draws in the last five fixtures - along with their shock-win over Egypt in their own backyard at the 2019 AFCON tournament, proves this.
For this to happen Ntseki would need to get his team selection and tactics spot-on with the players performing to their full potential.
Sport24's preferred team to feature in the World Cup qualifiers:
Formation 4-3-3 (Attacking/defensive according to opponent)
Goalkeeper: Ronwen Williams
Defenders: Thapelo Morena; Erick Mathoho (if Rivaldo Coetzee is injured); Thulani Hlatshwayo (C); Innocent Maela
Midfielders: Thulani Serero; Kamohelo Mokotjo; Lebohang Phiri
Attackers: Percy Tau; Lebo Mothiba; Keagan Dolly
*Against Ghana away from home Andile Jali or Dean Furman would come in to add more cover for the defence at the expense of Thulani Serero. Using a defensive 4-3-3 formation with an idea to catch the Black Stars on the counter.
- Compiled by Baden Gillion