South Africa and Senegal faced contrasting emotions at the end of their opening African Nations Cup Group C matches and Bafana Bafana will hope it is roles reversed when they clash in Mongomo on Friday night.
While South Africa were deflated as they let a lead slip and went down 3-1 to Algeria, Senegal were elated as they netted a last second winner to defeat Ghana 2-1 for a morale-boosting win.
It makes this a crunch fixture for Bafana, who cannot afford another loss or they will be dumped out of the competition at just the second hurdle.
Even a draw would leave their hopes hanging by a thread, depending on the result of the earlier game between Algeria and Ghana.
The positive for the South Africans is that they were the better side for the first 60 minutes against the much-vaunted Algerians, but disasters in defence saw them relinquish control.
Senegal will be physically more powerful than Bafana, but winger Thuso Phala makes the point that this will make them slower and allow South Africa’s pacey players to get behind their defence.
“We know they have a few big boys. They are more physical than us because they are taller. Set-piece wise they will have the aantage. But if you are taller and bigger then you are a lot slower than us,” Phala told reporters.
“Physically we as South Africans have a disaantage, but we have a way of working around it. We are quicker and have the agility. It showed against Mali (a 3-0 warm-up win), who also have big players, but we played them off the park.”
Thabo Matlaba and Bernard Parker have emerged as doubts for the game. Left-back Matlaba was on Thursday suffering with stomach pains, while Parker has the flu.
The duo will be given as much time as possible to prove their fitness, with the potential loss of the marauding Matlaba in particular a blow to the game-plan of coach Shakes Mashaba.
Should he drop out it is likely that Orlando Pirates teammate Ayanda Gcaba will be given a run in the left-back position, where Bafana have been caught short by injuries to Tsepo Masilela and Patrick Phungwayo.
Meanwhile, Senegal’s Cheikh Kouyate says South Africa are a side to be respected.
The tall midfielder from West Ham in the English premier league told reporters after training in Mongomo: “South Africa is a big team, a g team – but the Senegalese will go for the win. One point is good but we go for the three points.”
Senegal’s chances against Bafana were boosted by the return of Sadio Mane to full action. He participated in the full session, leaving coach Alain Giresse with a selection headache.
Mane was one of the outstanding performers in the qualifiers from September to November and Senegal’s insistence on selecting him in their 23-man squad even though he has been carrying an injury, gambling on his quick recovery, is indicative of how highly they rate him.
South Africa have never defeated Senegal in five previous meetings, the last of which was a 0-0 draw in February 2012.
Source : allAfrica.com