Its make or break for both South Africa and Namibia after both nations fell to a 1-0 opening game defeat to Ivory Coast and Morocco. Qualification is certainly still in reach, especially as four third-best teams will also advance to the knockout stages. Now, the only hurdle standing in each other’s way for both Bafana Bafana and Namibia is each other. Who will bounce back so soon after losing and register their first points in the group?
South Africa 11/20
One defeat and now everything comes into question. Where did Stuart Baxter get it wrong? Well, before criticizing the personnel set out to do the job, first ask yourself why didn’t Baxter perhaps take the COSAFA Cup more serious? Why did the national team play just one friendly leading up to the Nations Cup?
These are questions that you have to ask, which also makes one wonder: does Baxter really have a plan, or has he just lost his marbles?
In their defeat to Ivory Coast, by no means did they roll over per se, but fitness-wise, they failed to compete. The players’ minds were tired more than anything, and that was evident with Bafana Bafana enjoying a very little amount of the ball with not a single shot on target, while some of the decision-making was just appalling
These players all play at the highest level. Some have European experience; some have CAF Champions League experience. There is no excuse for not getting the job done. Whether Baxter goes with the same line-up or not isn’t that much of a problem for me personally, but its all about executing your plan properly.
Percy Tau and Lebo Mothiba had very little action up front, while the roaming playmakers in Themba Zwane and Lebohang Maboe have got to do more in terms of collecting the ball from the two destroyers, Kamohelo Mokotjo and Dean Furman.
Defensively, we were in a shambles. Sifiso Hlanti, Buhle Mkhwanazi and Thulani Hlatshwayo all play together at Bidvest Wits, so their schoolboy errors cannot be allowed in two consecutive games. They need to learn from their own wrongs and make amends against Namibia, where they will come up against their club teammate, Deon Hotto.
If Bafana Bafana are on song, they could certainly cruise past their African neighbours and take their first step in reaching the next round.
Once again, Namibia head into another AFCON fixture being massive underdogs. The Brave Warriors are playing without any pressure at all and that seemed to benefit them in their opening game against Morocco, where they suffered a 1-0 defeat, courtesy of a cruel late own goal scored by substitute, Itamunua Keimuine.
Namibia had all the answers to the questions that Morocco posed, and had it not been for their own costly error, Ricardo Mannetti’s men would have earned a miraculous point. Perhaps the Brave Warriors deserved more on the day despite creating very little chances.
Now, against arguably weaker opposition in South Africa, along with the fact that Wits winger, Hotto, as well as the Highlands Park duo of Denzil Haoseb and Peter Shalulile, Loydt Kazapua of Maccabi FC, Riaan Hanamub of Jomo Cosmos and Larry Horaeb of Baroka FC will be hoping to prove a point and make their nation proud against the country they all ply their trade in.
South Africa: 4-2-2-2
Williams; Mkhize, Mkhwanazi, Hlatshwayo, Hlanti; Furman, Mokotjo; Zwane, Maboe; Tau, Mothiba.
Kazapua; Horaeb, Nyambe, Haoseb, Hanamub; Shitembi, Ketjijere, Starke, Hotto; Limbondi, Shalulile
Prediction: South Africa (11/20)
With Namibia being a team that is used to playing without the ball throughout most of the game, it could work in Bafana Bafana’s favour. It doesn’t take rocket science to see that playing with the ball at their feet is what the South African players enjoy doing, which could see the best come out of players like Zwane and Tau, which could also afford Mothiba more goalscoring opportunities to add to his already-decent record of scoring four times in just eight matches for the national team. Nothing is ever straightforward and easy with Bafana Bafana, but at 11/20, perhaps this might be the best, if not only time, to back them in the tournament.
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