Bafana Bafana protect proud home record in Afcon qualifiers against Libya
Bafana Bafana head into their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Libya in Durban on Saturday protecting a proud record on their own patch that has seen the side lose just twice in 24 previous continental preliminary round games on home soil.
But there has also been a worrying trend of failing to break down visiting teams in recent years‚ allowing them to escape South Africa with a point.
Home-ground advantage has been pivotal for the side in previous Afcon qualifiers‚ even if they have all too often also found defensive visitors tough to break down.
In fact‚ they have won 12 of those 24 matches‚ exactly 50 percent‚ while there have also been 10 draws to go with those two defeats.
What is perhaps the stand-out statistic is that they have conceded just 10 goals in those 24 games‚ showing an iron-clad defence they will hope to maintain on Saturday at the Moses Mabhdia Stadium.
Both of those previous defeats have come at the hands of Zambia‚ including their very first home qualifier in 1992 when Chipolopolo triumphed 1-0 thanks to a goal from Timothy Mwitwa.
Mwitwa tragically lost his life along with 29 others when the Zambia national team’s plane crashed off the cost of Gabon seven months later.
Zambia also claimed a handsome win with a 3-1 success in 2007 as a Chris Katongo hat-trick sunk a sorry Bafana at Newlands.
Worryingly‚ perhaps‚ for current coach Stuart Baxter is the fact that six of the team’s last seven home continental qualifiers have ended in draws‚ including all three in their previous campaign to reach the 2017 finals.
There they were held by lowly Gambia (0-0) and Mauritania (1-1)‚ as well as a credible draw with Cameroon (0-0)‚ but before that Nigeria (0-0)‚ Congo (0-0) and Sierra Leone (0-0) have also taken a point from South African shores with just a single goal scored by the home side in those six games.
The only victory in that time was a 2-1 success against Sudan in 2014.
It is perhaps the reason why Baxter asked warm-up opponents AmaZulu to sit deep and defend in their 2-0 friendly victory on Wednesday‚ challenging his side to break through a stubborn opponent.
Libya are likely to be organized at the back and will show little ambition‚ knowing a point in South Africa will be crucial in their bid to reach the Afcon finals in Cameroon next June.