Bafana, Mali bring SA to standstill
Mali will be looking to draw inspiration from their national problems on Saturday evening, when they take on the host nation South Africa in hope of reaching their second successive African Cup of Nations semifinal.
The match will be played at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, with kick-off at 8:30pm (CAT).
The road leading to the quarterfinals took two different paths for South Africa and Mali, as the hosts topped Group A, while Mali show cased some impressive form but landed up as runners-up in Group B, second to Ghana.
For Gordon Igesund’s side, the pressure was on them, as the host Nation, to make sure they booked their first quarterfinal spot since 2002 and they did so in an impressive manner.
Their underwhelming curtainraiser to Cape Verde has quickly fallen to the back of the minds of many home fans, when they came out victorious against Angola before pulling off an impressive fight against Morocco to draw 2-2.
The demands of doing well has only increased again, as the nation's hopes of success continues to grow more plausible with each passing game.
Crucial to Bafana’s progression was Anele Ngcongca, who featured in all three games and will now be forced to watch the games from the stands after he was added to the referee’s book twice.
“It’s sad that I won’t feature in this match because I was really looking forward to it, but then again it’s part of the game,” he says.
“It’s a great pity that I won’t be on field but watching from the stands. I am confident that whoever gets the chance to play in that position will do a magnificent job because we are all working on one mission – to proceed to the semifinals and go all the way in the tournament.
His role will be filled in by Kaizer Chiefs’ Siboniso Gaxa, who has confirmed he is ready for the challenge, while fellow club teammate Lehlohonolo Majoro is set to make his return from injury.
The Eagles progress into the quarterfinals has given their nation a rare cause to smile for, as their domestic struggles continue to rampage through the country.
Partice Carteron has managed to call-up a squad with a perfect balance between youth and experience and he has confirmed that his team will be out there playing, not only for success, but to give his war-struck nation a sense of hope.
"That's why we really wanted to qualify because we wanted to give some joy and happiness to the country," Carteron said.
"For example, for the first time in one year the people of Timbuktu could see television and could watch the national team play against Congo. For us, that was so humbling... it's fantastic.
"I think they (South Africa) will have a 60-40 advantage going into the game, it's logical. When you play at home with the atmosphere, the crowd and the whole country behind you, it's normal. But I know we have a chance."