Bafana’s striking dilemma
Durban – Gordon Igesund faces a striking dilemma for Sunday’s Africa Cup of Nations showdown with Morocco, with two of his centre forwards major injury doubts for the game at Moses Mabhida Stadium here (7pm).
Lehlohonolo Majoro, purveyor of that brilliant goal against Angola on Wednesday evening, was already all-but certain to miss out against the Atlas Lions, after picking up a deep gash in his calf muscle against Palancas Negras.
And now Tokelo Rantie, the man who Majoro replaced in the second half in Durban, has caused further concern to the Bafana coach, sitting out Friday’s training session at People’s Park in the shadow of the giant main stadium, with an ankle injury.
Should Rantie fail to recover in time, Igesund will have to shake up his starting line-up a little more than he might have liked, following the dazzling performance against Angola, such a contrast to the dour opener against Cape Verde, that has left Bafana on the brink of the quarter-finals.
The most likely scenario as to who will partner Katlego Mphela in attack against Morocco has to be Bernard Parker moving infield alongside the Sundowns man, opening up a vacancy on the left of midfield. That could even mean a reprise for Siphiwe Tshabalala, the Bafana vice-captain unceremoniously dropped by Igesund for the Angola game.
The other major change against Morocco could come in central midfield, with Reneilwe Letsholonyane a likely replacement for May Mahlangu, if Igesund seeks a bit more steel in the middle at Moses Mabhida.
Letsholonyane came off the bench to good effect against Angola, breaking up play and sending Majoro off for his wonder-goal with a stunning pass, straight out of the Kaizer Chiefs’ textbook.
“I know how he (Majoro) does his runs, he is my teammate, and most of his goals come with the same run,” said Letsholonyane.
“Every time I get the ball he turns and he knows when he runs I will give him the ball.”
That link will probably not be possible against Morocco, but “Yeye” is confident Bafana can cope.
“It is a shame, he (Majoro) is a good player and he scored, but it is part of football,” said Letsholonyane.
“We have 23 players in the squad, they are good players. So someone can come in and do the same job that Majoro did.”
A point will be enough for Bafana to progress to the last eight, and even in defeat they will go through if Cape Verde fail to beat Angola in a game that kicks off at the same time in Port Elizabeth.
But Bafana are thinking about victory, which will not just keep the momentum but also definitely keep them in Durban, a city where a feverish spirit of belief has started to rise up in the sea air.
The game on Sunday is already a sell-out, with a Sunday evening kick-off likely to guarantee a packed stadium from the start, with the crowd hoping to sing Bafana to another three points.
“We just want to win the game. Obviously it is a morale booster if we can go into the knockout stages with a win. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen, but we will go out and do our best,” said Letsholonyane.
“It is always like that (the great support of the fans). Even in our first game it was the same.
“The players appreciate their support,” said Letsholonyane.
“They come in their numbers to get behind us, and that is why we always try our best to make them happy.
“It is a plus for us (to stay in Durban). I can say it is our happy hunting ground.”
Morocco have picked up just two points thus far in Group A, leaving them with little choice but to go all-out for victory tomorrow. This makes them dangerous opponents, but could also open up space at the back for Bafana to exploit.
Morocco coach Rachid Taoussi will have to beat Bafana without suspended attacking midfielder Younes Belhanda, the Montpellier man picking up a second yellow card against Cape Verde.
The Atlas Lions have not beaten Bafana in three previous meeting at the Nations Cup, with Bafana winning 2-1 in Burkina Faso in 1998, 3-1 in Mali in 2002, and most recently, the sides playing out a 1-1 draw in Tunisia in 2004. On that occasion, in Sousse, a point was not enough to get Bafana to the quarter-finals. This time, it is they who hold all the aces. – Saturday Star