Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban
February 2, 2013
The 1996 AFCON winners had to bear the embarrassment of not qualifying for AFCON 2012 after failing to read the rules properly. Given the poor form showed by Bafana Bafana in 2012 few would have been surprised if they failed to qualify for AFCON 2013 as well. CAF’s decision to award tournament hosting rights to South Africa, instead of original hosts Libya, meant that they qualified automatically as hosts.
South Africa began their campaign with an insipid draw against Cape Verde. Despite playing in front of their own fans Bafana Bafana failed to create goal scoring chances, a problem that has dogged them for over a year. Things did improve against Angola in the second match as Siyabonga Sagweni gave them the lead with a well struck volley on 30th minute. Coach Gordon Igesund made five changes to the side which started against Cape Verde and South Africa’s performance in their opponents half improved dramatically. One of these new faces, central midfielder Dean Furman had an instant impact as Bafana Bafana took control of the midfield. The result was put beyond doubt by Lehlohonolo Majoro who scored within four minutes after coming on as a substitute in second half to double South Africa’s advantage.
South Africa needed at least one point against Morocco to ensure qualification. It was the North Africans who made a stronger start to the match, taking the lead on 10th minute. South African custodian Khune failed to judge a Moroccan corner properly as Issam El Adoua headed in to stun the home crowd. Both teams had chances in an exciting first half but no more goals were scored. Things got even more dramatic in second half as one of the best matches in this year’s tournament unfolded. With 19 minutes left on the clock Tokelo Rantie scored a beautiful goal to draw level for South Africa. Eleven minutes later Morocco regained their lead through substitute Abdelilah Hafidi. Morocco were heading for the quarter-final with a 2-1 scoreline. The joy of Atlas Lions would last only 4 minutes as Siyabonga Sangweni struck another lip smacking effort to make it 2-2. The match finished with two apiece as South Africa qualified to AFCON quarter-final for the first time in eleven years.
South Africa are likely to line-up in a 4-4-1-1 formation with Rantie playing a slightly withdrawn role and Katlego Mphela as primary striker. Furman has been a vital factor behind South Africa’s turnaround and is likely to retain his place in central midfield.
Possible Starting XI (4-4-1-1): Khune; Anele Ngcongca; Siyabonga Sangweni, Bongani Khumalo, Tsepo Masilela; Thuso Phala, Dean Furman, May Mahlangu, Bernard Parke; Tokelo Rantie, Katlego Mphela
The Eagles finished third is the 2012 edition, incidentally knocking out co-hosts Gabon after an emotionally charged penalty shoot-out in quarter-final. A year has passed since then and they face off against another host in the same stage of the tournament, hoping for same outcome.
Mali qualified for AFCON 2013 with a canter after dispatching 2012 qualifiers Botswana comfortably with a 7-1 score-line over two legs.
The Eagles opened their Group B campaign against Niger at the Nelson Mandela Port Bay Stadium. Each of the three matches preceding their game had ended in goal-less draws and Mali’s match seemed heading for the same direction till 84th minute. Six minutes before the final whistle former Barcelona star and captain Seydou Keita took full advantage of a mistake from Niger ‘keeper Daouda Kassaly to score the match-winner.
Mali took on favourites Ghana in the second match. It was clear from the start that Patrice Carteron had deployed his team to contain his more illustrious opponents and snatch a draw. Mali played a defensively solid and disciplined, if slightly lackluster match against the Black Stars. They could also count themselves slightly unfortunate as Ghana goal-keeper could have been sent off as early as 6th minute for a hand-ball outside the box which referee chose to ignore. It was another cagey match as Mali slumped to a 1-0 loss thanks to Wakaso’s spot kick for Ghana.
Needing to avoid a defeat against Congo to progress to next round, Mali didn’t know what had hit them as the Leopards went off to a blistering start at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban. Lomana LuaLua struck the post after just 20 seconds and Congo were soon awarded a penalty kick. Dieumerci Mbokani made no mistakes from his spot kick as Congo rushed to a 1-0 lead within three minutes. It took the Eagles just 11 minutes to find the equalizer. However, Mali quickly equalized when a poor clearance allowed Adama Tamboura to set-up Mahamadou Samassa’s equaliser. After the frantic start rest of the match saw chances that were few and far between. Mali was unarguably the stronger of two sides as they saw Kalilou Traore and Cheick Diabate come close to scoring a second goal. The 1-1 draw, coupled with Ghana’s convincing win against Niger was enough to book Mali their second consecutive AFCON quarter-final berth.
Mali is likely to field a 4-5-1 formation with Samassa as the lone striker. The Eagles have been one of the tougher teams in the tournament and have picked up a number of yellow cards till now. They need to exercise extra caution against a team playing in front of their home crowd. Seydou Keita, Mali’s inspirational captain, scored their opening goal and will be their key player yet again. With their country reeling from internal problems, The Eagles will be looking to provide some much needed cheer on the field.
Possible Starting XI (4-5-1): Mamadou Samassa, Diawara, Tamboura, Coulibaly, Wague, Momo Sissoko, Diakite, Sow, Seydou Keita, Maiga, Mahamadou Samassa
Mali 1-0 South Africa
Bafana Bafana may enjoy home advantage but Mali will have that extra slice of motivation given the situation back at home. The current Mali side also has experience of knocking out hosts while playing in front of a partisan crowd and should be able to edge this match which may become a tight and cagey encounter.