Hugo Broos’ Bafana Bafana will face off against Namibia on Sunday in a crucial Africa Cup of Nations finals Group E match.
With their hopes of qualifying for the last 16 hanging in the balance, a victory is desperately needed.
While a draw or even a defeat will not eliminate Bafana from contention, it will leave them requiring a bit of a miracle against Tunisia following their 2-0 loss to Mali on Tuesday.
Normally, Bafana would be heavy favourites to beat Namibia. However, Collin Benjamin’s side comes into this match with newfound confidence, having secured their first-ever win at Afcon finals by stunning Namibia 1-0 on Tuesday.
As the Southern African derby unfolds at the Stade Amadou Gon Coulibaly, here are three things to look out for:
1. Brave Warriors Striker vs. Sundowns Defense
If Ronwen Williams, Khuliso Mudau, Aubrey Modiba, Mothobi Mvala, and Grant Kekana start against Namibia on Sunday, Brave Warriors striker Peter Shalulile will find himself up against a full defence comprised of his Mamelodi Sundowns teammates.
This scenario is not beyond the realms of possibility, especially considering Siyanda Xulu’s poor performance against Mali, which has led to suggestions that he should be dropped for this game. This potential change in defence could open up an opportunity for Kekana to step in.
It will be fascinating to see if the Sundowns backline can keep their own striker quiet, as well as contain the threat posed by Orlando Pirates striker Deon Hotto, who delivered a brilliant display in Namibia’s shock win over Tunisia.
Shalulile, who is still searching for his first goal of the competition, will undoubtedly face a determined effort from his Masandawana teammates to ensure he doesn’t find the back of the net against them.
2. Lloyd Kazapua: Namibia’s Resilient Goalkeeper
Namibia’s number one goalkeeper, Lloyd Kazapua, has made just two appearances for Chippa United this season, losing his place as the first-choice shot-stopper to Nigerian ‘keeper Stanley Nwabili. Despite this setback, the 34-year-old remains the preferred option for Collin Benjamin and the Brave Warriors.
Kazapua will undoubtedly be eager to showcase his skills once again against the best Bafana has to offer. In September, he kept a clean sheet as Namibia held Bafana to a goalless draw at Orlando Stadium.
If Kazapua can replicate that performance on Sunday, Namibia will have one foot in the last 16. Bafana’s attacking trio of Themba Zwane, Percy Tau, and Evidence Makgopa will need to find their form quickly to overcome Kazapua’s resilience and boost their own chances of progressing to the knockout rounds.
3. Hugo Broos’ Tactical Decisions
It will be interesting to see if Bafana Bafana head coach Hugo Broos maintains faith in the side that performed well in the first half against Mali but was ultimately overpowered in the second. Alternatively, he may opt to make changes for the match against Namibia.
Some players, such as Siyanda Xulu in defense, Sphephelo Sithole in midfield, and Evidence Makgopa in attack, appear vulnerable in their positions. Could Broos opt for Grant Kekana in defence instead of Xulu? Will he choose the experience of Thabang Monare over Sithole? Is Zakhele Lepasa a potential replacement for Makgopa?
These are just a few of the options available to Broos. However, it would also not be surprising if he gives the same lineup another chance, considering that Bafana showed great attacking potential in the first half against Mali, with only their finishing letting them down. If they can convert their chances against Namibia, Bafana may find redemption.
As Bafana Bafana takes on Namibia in this crucial encounter, the outcome of this match will have a significant impact on their Africa Cup of Nations campaign.
With qualification for the last 16 at stake, both teams will be determined to secure a victory. Whether Bafana can rise to the occasion and overcome Namibia’s newfound confidence remains to be seen.
The Southern African derby promises an exciting battle as these two teams fight for their place in the knockout rounds.