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Stay brave Bafana

Afcon 2013 started out slowly but I now feel it’s gaining impetus. You naturally get tight encounters in the opening games as teams don’t want to give too much away.

Up until Wednesday evening, I would have said that Bafana Bafana were the biggest disappointment in the tournament thus far. Against Angola, however, they really showed what they are capable of. The side played with more freedom and a short passing game, which allowed them to retain possession. Most importantly they demonstrated the ability to pass forward.

From day one I have called for the side to take risks, as I believe you will never win matches if you don’t. When a side adopts a more positive mentality they end up getting more players in the box and it’s funny how things often fall into place. Take for example when Siyabonga Sangweni made a run into the box and the ball fell kindly for him. If he hadn’t made the effort of getting into that position, he would never have scored.

Dean Furman was outstanding against the Sable Antelopes but was ably supported by May Mahlangu in the first half and Reneilwe Letsholonyane in the second. The combination play allowed Bafana the outlet to employ their short passing game.

I have always maintained that the strategy of two holding midfielders has never worked for South Africa, as they can’t get forward enough from the centre of midfield. Playing just one holding midfielder doesn’t mean the other players won’t get back and defend. The likes of Mahlangu and Letsholonyane weren’t afraid to track back.

The Barcelona midfield is a prime example – they get in the faces of their opposition and aim for the interception. While Furman was the holding midfielder, even he was attack-minded and I feel that’s the way modern football has evolved.

For Bafana’s second goal, we saw how the long ball can be effective if executed correctly when teams are disorganised in defence.

While Bafana’s victory over Angola will take a load off their shoulders, they will be aware that their work is far from done. My advice would be not to look to get a point from the next match, but rather go for the win. Bafana would then be guaranteed top spot in Group A and have their destiny in their own hands.

I wouldn’t advocate any real tactical or personnel changes for the Morocco game. I think Bafana got it spot on against Angola. It’s never advisable to chop and change your side based on the opposition you face. Why should we? We are on home soil and should dictate the tempo of play.

Morocco are always tough opponents and will be even more determined as they will want to avoid a repeat of their first round exit at Afcon 2012. The North Africans will be very direct in approach. They are technically sound with the ability to pass long and Bafana must be aware of the diagonal balls they will play and their threat at set-pieces.

They will also look to attack on the flanks, so Bafana must ensure they suck them in and make quick tackles. The Moroccans are big men, so it’s also key that Bafana move them about.

While Bafana have kept two clean sheets in the tournament, I think the defence still has to watch out. We gave away a lot of half chances, which sides like Ivory Coast, Ghana and Nigeria will punish in the knockout stages.

The Atlas Lions haven’t been at their best in this tournament, so I anticipate a number of changes to their side. Therefore, rather than singling out certain danger men as threats, I would advise Bafana to adopt an all-round game strategy.

Bafana must make their tackles, be sharp and slow play down and quicken it up depending on the rhythm of the game. In modern day football you have to be able to adjust.

I would like to see Bafana dominate the game, gain the victory and ultimately make a statement. A positive result over Morocco will give them massive momentum going forward.

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