17:00 GMT, Friday 10th November, Pter Mokaba Stadium (Polokwane, South Africa)
Heading into this match, any of the four sides from Group D can still qualify for the World Cup finals.
However, for South Africa this is a must-win game. Two wins from their last two games would still be enough for Bafana Bafana to progress but a slow start to their campaign has left them hanging on the slenderest of hopes.
This will therefore be one of the biggest weeks in the South African national team’s recent history, especially if they can progress to the finals for the fourth time in six tournaments.
For Les Lions de la Teranga, it’s a much easier affair. Take one point from the two games against South Africa and they should qualify due to their greater goal difference, anything extra would definitely see them progress.
While they’ve only made one appearance at the World Cup Finals before now, their 2002 campaign was a huge success and is still a source of pride for the country after reaching the quarter-final stage in 2002 where Turkey beat them with a 93rd minute golden goal.
Last Time Out
South Africa 3-1 Burkina Faso (World Cup Qualification)
Stuart Baxter’s side kept alive their hopes of qualification with their first win of the campaign. Burkina Faso went into this game on top of the group but were resoundingly beaten by a ten-men South African side who look to have found the form which had deserted them for so long.
Percy Tau scored a header in the first minute of the match as the away side failed to react to a fast start by Bafana Bafana. Themba Zwane and Sibusiso Vilakazi made it 3-0 before half-time as South Africa made the most of their early pressure and effectively ended the game as a contest inside the first 45 minutes.
Bongani Zungu was then sent off in the 67th minute and the midfielder’s absence allowed the away team back into the game, although only a consolation goal from Bertrand Traore’s brother, Alain, in the dying minutes was what Burkina Faso could manage to salvage.
Cape Verde 0-2 Senegal (World Cup Qualification)
An entertaining game was played out in front of a sell-out crowd at the Estádio Nacional de Cabo Verde last month where two late goals put Senegal in firm control of Group D.
Both teams set out to attack and a flurry of early chances kept both keepers busy, however, neither side were able to open the scoring in the first half despite their best efforts.
Senegal began asserting their superiority after the break with good chances falling to Baldé Keita Diao and Papa Ndiaye but it wasn’t until Diafra Sakho’s 82nd-minute strike that they took the lead. Cheikh Ndoye then added another late in the game as Cape Verde saw their chances of making the plane to Russia take a damaging blow.
South Africa Lineup
Hlompho Kekana has been granted leave due to a personal issue although keeper Itumeleng Khune has belatedly joined up with the squad in Polokwane and is expected to play for his country after a recent injury.
Bongani Zungu and Andile Jali will not be available as both midfielders serve respective suspensions, however, captain Thulani Hlatshwayo returns to action following his recent ban.
Sadio Mané has recently returned to action for Liverpool and will again feature for his country in these crucial, upcoming fixtures.
Mbaye Niang of Torino could also find himself in the starting lineup after making his national debut in the previous match with Stoke City’s Mame Biram Diouf the most likely player to make way for his compatriot.
Key Battle: Thulani Hlatshwayo (South Africa) vs Keita Baldé (Senegal)
As the captain of Bidvest Wits, Thulani Hlatshwayo is an incredibly important figure for both club and country although, like the national side, his club team are currently experiencing a difficult period. Playing in the centre of defence, Hlatshwayo has just returned from a knee injury but his leadership with be vital for Bafana Bafana if they’re to get anything from these meetings.
The pace and skill of Sadio Mané is well known in Europe due to his outstanding performances for Liverpool over the last two seasons but while many will expect him to be the sharpest point of Senegal’s cutting edge, they’re overlooking Monaco’s Keita Baldé.
The 22-year-old forward is likely to be used as another pacey player with which Senegal break on the South African back-line. As the most influential player for Senegal in recent fixtures, Baldé could again prove a huge asset to his country this weekend.
This is the second time this fixture will be played after the original match from a year ago was ruled out due to match-fixing. FIFA adjudged that Joseph Lamptey, the Ghanaian referee in charge of the game, was guilty of unlawfully influencing match results and as a result imposed a lifetime ban on him and ordered the match to be replayed.
By awarding a penalty to South Africa for a handball that didn’t happen, the Bafana Bafana won 2-1 to secure their first win in qualification, albeit, illegally.
As such, these two teams will play each other twice in four days, the second match being in Dakar on Tuesday, with the outcome affecting who will qualify for Russia from Group D.
Weight of History
Senegal go into these two games with the weight of expectation clearly upon their shoulders. The local media in West Africa have been fuelling the flames of excitement recently and with so many of their players plying their trade in European leagues, there’s a general feeling that this team is as good as the one of 2002.
With only two wins against South Africa from their previous eight meetings, Bafana Bafana won their last (legal) clash but crucially the Lions of Teranga have always overcome their opponents during crucial meetings. This will again add to the expectancy and although it would be a huge shock for Senegal not to take what they need, nothing should be taken for granted with so much at stake for both sides.
Prediction: South Africa 1-1 Senegal
The odds of South Africa progressing to the World Cup are looking remote, especially with so many of their players missing for various reasons. The first match on Friday is likely to prove a tactical game rather than an exhilarating spectacle with Senegal expected to sit back and try to pick off the home team on the counter.
This could be a risky ploy as even without a wealth of household names in their side, South Africa will be determined not to let down their country and a tight game will ensue which could see them just miss out on a place in the finals.
What do you think the outcome of these meetings will produce?
- South Africa to win both games and qualify
- South Africa to win the first game but ultimately lose out
- Honours even with Senegal to prosper
- Senegal to claim victory and seal their place in the Finals
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