Five important dates to look out for in SA football in 2017 - Times LIVE
Fri Feb 24 14:41:13 SAST 2017

Five important dates to look out for in SA football in 2017

Mark Gleeson | 2017-01-02 12:37:58.0
For the first time in 2017‚ there will be four groups of four with the top two finishers going on to a new quarter-final stage. File photo
Image by: FADI AL-ASSAAD

Rare status for South African football will mark the new year as the country goes into 2017 as defenders of a major continental title.

Mamelodi Sundowns‚ to be more specific‚ have put the country in this unusual role after winning the African Champions League last year.

The win energised the rest of the country to perform with more rigour and determination in upcoming continental club competition club.

Participation by Premier Soccer League clubs in both the African Champions League and African Confederation Cup will be closely followed.

But clubs still have as a priority success in the Absa Premiership and Nedbank Cup‚ and the contest for honours this season looks set to be dramatic.

But trumping all of that‚ on the agenda for 2017‚ is Bafana Bafana’s bid to qualify for the World Cup.

The country plays four qualifiers‚ between August and November‚ with high hopes of winning their group and going to Russia to make a fourth finals appearance.

But just who will lead the team into that battle remains to be confirmed after the firing of Ephraim ‘ Shakes’ Mashaba.

These are the five key dates to look out for on the South African football calendar in 2017

- February 18 Mamelodi Sundowns host TP Mazembe Englebert of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the African Super Cup‚ handing the Brazilians a one-off chance to earn a second piece of continental silverware.

The Champions League winners always have home advantage against the team who won the Confederation Cup and Sundown will be hoping to have a massive crowd to back them in Pretoria against one of the more powerful teams on the continent.

- May 12 The new-look African Champions League‚ which will consist of 16 teams instead of eight‚ gets underway just when the domestic season is coming to a close.

- If both Sundowns and Wits qualify‚ then they face the prospect of no break during the off-season as the group matches will be played between May and July‚ at a time when the players and staff are usually off on much-needed holiday.

For the first time in 2017‚ there will be four groups of four with the top two finishers going on to a new quarter-final stage.

- May 27 The last day of the league season will see all 16 PSL club play simultaneously.

In recent years‚ the title race has been decided before the last day. But there have also been‚ in the last decade‚ some dramatic final day finishes.

There will be high hopes that this season’s finale will involve several prospective champions.

The fixtures have Kaizer Chiefs and SuperSport United playing at home in their last game but defending champions Sundowns are away‚ as are Cape Town City‚ Orlando Pirates and Wits. August Bafana Bafana are away against the Cape Verde Islands in a must-win World Cup qualifier that is the first of four matches in quick succession.

Burkina Faso have already won away on the island archipelago in Group D and Senegal are expected to do so too‚ so it is imperative that South Africa take three points in Praia as well.

In fact they will be targeting six out of a possible six because just five days later the two countries meet again‚ this time with Bafana having home advantage.

- November 11 The last game of the World Cup qualifiers away in Dakar against Senegal was always likely to be crucial for Bafana.

It is predicted to be the match to decide who will go to Russia.

Now it is sure to have even more of an edge after the controversial win for South Africa over the Lions of Teranga in Polokwane in November where the home side were given a soft penalty.

Senegal complained to FIFA about the decisions of referee Joseph Lamptey who has since been banned.

- TMG Digital

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