Five things Bafana must do against Egypt
Bafana Bafana take on hosts Egypt in their Africa Cup of Nations second round clash at the intimidating Cairo International Stadium on Saturday night as heavy underdogs but they are capable of causing a major upset.
TimesLIVE looks at five things they must get right on the night if they are to pull off an unlikely win.
Halt Egypt’s early momentum
Backed by 75‚000 passionate fans inside the stadium‚ Egypt will come hard at Bafana in the early stages looking to build momentum and put coach Stuart Baxter’s men on the back foot.
Riding out the opening 15 to 20 minutes will be crucial as the Egyptians have players who are capable of holding while putting pressure at the same time. The home side have yet to concede a goal in the tournament.
But the longer Bafana can deny the hosts from scoring‚ the more stretched the game will become and the more anxious Egyptian players and their crowd will get.
That will no doubt create spaces in which Bafana can play with Baxter able to use his favoured counter-attack style.
If Egypt get on top early‚ it is unlikely they will relinquish the advantage.
Don’t let the Pharaohs get a sight of goal
This sounds obvious but Egypt are deadly when they have the goal in their sights.
Four of their five goals in this tournament have come from inside the box but they also have the best shooting accuracy of any team so far at 65 percent.
Added to that‚ they also have the third best shot conversion (21.7 percent) which means they score with one in every five shots on goal.
With quality finishers like Mohamed Salah and Trezeguet in the team‚ Bafana must keep the number of opportunities they give the side to an absolute minimum.
Be more careful in possession
An unusual feature of this tournament so far has been the number of times Bafana have turned over possession with misplaced passes or poor options chosen.
The players do not appear to be on the same wavelength at times‚ like they are playing together for the first time and it has been hugely frustrating. It is perhaps unfair to single him out but Sifiso Hlanti has been particularly careless‚ casual and sloppy in this regard and a better performance from him is needed as he provides vital width on the left side of the defence.
The more possession Bafana give to Egypt‚ the harder their task becomes‚ so they must protect the ball much better and cut out the ‘Hail Mary’ flicks and tricks that have simply not worked in the tournament so far.
Rotate the ball quicker‚ play with pace
Perhaps because their passing has been so poor‚ Bafana have looked ponderous and static in their play which means they have not been able to break down opposition defences.
Even minnows Namibia managed to contain them fairly easily with Bafana’s goal coming from a set-piece rather than in open play.
Because they have been so slow on the ball‚ teams are able to maintain their shape and simply move Bafana from side to side on the pitch without creating much.
Bafana have had only 21 shots in the entire tournament‚ and did not get one on target against the Moroccans in their final pool match.
If they can move the ball quicker‚ and with greater accuracy‚ they can begin to pull the Egypt defence out of their set formation and that is when opportunities will come.
Show more energy and dynamism in attack
Percy Tau has looked lively up front‚ even if by his own admission he has not hit the heights he would expect but for the rest there has been a lack of ‘zip’ and energy in the forward play.
Lebo Mothiba is not the kind of player to be buzzing around‚ it is simply not his game‚ which is more as a focal-point up front for the attack and a finisher in the box.
But to finish‚ he needs to have shooting chances and they have been few and far between as there has been little creativity or industry in the final third.
An injection of pace from a Lebogang Maboe or Thembinkosi Lorch would be welcome‚ and with Themba Zwane suspended‚ that is likely to be the case.
Bafana need players who are going to trouble the Egyptians with intelligent runs and speed in their play.
Hitting the ball long to Mothiba and hoping to win the second ball will just not cut it.