Bafana on the brink of qualification
South Africa are just one point shy of booking their spot in the quarterfinal round of the 2013 African Cup of Nations, when they host a Moroccan side who have it all to play for at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Sunday afternoon, kick-off at 7pm CAT (SA, GMT+2).
Gordon Igesund’s side managed to warm the hearts of the nation and instill hope of success when his side dazzled in a 2-0 Group A win over Angola on Wednesday afternoon.
The win meant that Bafana’s three points saw them table top Morocco, Cape Verde and the Sable Antelopes in Group A, leaving them just a draw away from progression.
Igesund’s decision to field five changes from the side which underwhelmed in the tournament’s curtain raiser paid dividends and they are now in the driving seat to finish as the Group’s leaders.
They will, however, have to face a test of character as they will come up against a Moroccan side without Wednesday’s goalscrorer Lehlohonolo Majoro and Tekolo Rantie, who will be missing due to a shin and ankle injury respectively.
The win over Angola marked South Africa’s first Cup of Nations win since 2004 and with the confidence in the group on the rise, Itumeleng Khune has warned his side not to get complacent against a Moroccan side, who are expected to come out with their guns blazing.
“We're not there yet. It still has to be business as usual until Sunday," Khune said in the build-up to the clash. “We have to go back to the drawing board and see where we can improve.
“All the focus now has to be on that last game of the group, which will be a tough one. We'll have to treat them with respect as they are a team which has done well in the past.”
“Obviously the confidence is high having kept two clean sheets (in the tournament), but as I said, we must stay grounded.
“We still have one to go and if I can keep another clean sheet there then that should be enough to see us through.”
Like their next adversaries, Morocco also failed to impress in their opening fixture against Angola (0-0), but that frustratingly spilled to Wednesday’s encounter in Durban against Cape Verde.
The Atlas Lions were almost on the brink of elimination before a goal by the substitute Youssef El Arabi, with little more than ten minutes to be played, kept his side in the mix of a spot in the next round after the game finished 1-1.
Rachid Taoussi will be hoping that history will certainly be a thing of the past when they turnout on the field on Sunday against a South African team they are yet to claim a win against.
With only a win guaranteeing them a spot in the next round, Morocco will have to put aside their previous misgivings against Bafana and go all out at the Moses Mabhida stadium, even without their talisman Younes Belhanda who will be serving a one-match suspension.
Taoussi will hoping that his team can rid themselves of the individual errors which cost them against Cape Verde.
“There were a lot of personal mistakes between players. It also took a bit of time for our players to find familiarity with each other, especially in the first few minutes,” Taoussi said after Wednesday’s game.
“And then also the substitutions made things difficult, but in the first half we also tried hard, but unfortunately it didn't work.
“We'll try to do better next time.”