Soccer

These are the men who could take Bafana to Afcon with Libya win

These are the players Bafana and Libya will look to for inspiration and victory

24 March 2019 - 00:06 By SAZI HADEBE


Often a result of any football match hinges on the individual brilliance of certain players.
The pivotal 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier between Libya and Bafana Bafana in Sfax, Tunisia, today (7pm SA time), will be no different with both sides looking at key players to take control of the game.
BAFANA BAFANA
PERCY TAU - STRIKER
The former Mamelodi Sundowns striker has been one of the few Bafana players ever present in the past five Afcon qualifiers. Tau's journey started when he came on for Tokelo Rantie in that unforgettable 2-0 win over Nigeria in Uyo in June 2017.
The nimble-footed player needed no more than a minute to seal Bafana's victory with a lovely goal after Rantie had opened the scoring in the 54th minute.
That match also marked the return of Stuart Baxter to the Bafana hot seat. Ironically, Tau's emergence on the international scene coincided with Rantie's demise.
Since that match, Tau has virtually carried Bafana on his tiny shoulders and his recent partnership with Lebo Mothiba is one of the most promising ones on the African continent. Tau is the man Libya will do well to contain if they are to avoid an avalanche of goals this evening.
THULANI HLATSHWAYO - DEFENDER
Like Tau, the Bafana skipper has featured in all of the Afcon qualifiers, with his central defensive partnership with his Bidvest Wits counterpart Buhle Mkhwanazi credited for Bafana conceding only one goal in the five qualifiers.
In tonight's match Hlatshwayo is expected to not only lead the defensive line, but his contribution with goals in set pieces will be vital against the tall and strong Libyans. Hlatshwayo has already contributed a goal in these qualifiers, but scoring one against the Libyans tonight could surely take his status to another level.
Ensuring that Bafana don't concede a goal would require that Hlatshwayo leads from the front and is the one to bring confidence to either Ronwen Williams or Darren Keet in the Bafana goals.
THEMBA ZWANE - ATTACKING MIDFIELDER
That Zwane has only featured in the two matches against Nigeria is not because of lack of form.
Zwane was in devastating form when Bafana beat Nigeria in the first qualifier before injury hit him.
The Mamelodi Sundowns star was unlucky not to score at least two goals against the Super Eagles as he hit the post twice. His return against Nigeria in November was welcomed by Baxter who was desperate to have intelligent and creative players in his side.
Zwane's role in tonight's match cannot be overstated. The great thing is that the little maestro comes with excellent form, having scored four goals in helping Sundowns qualify for this season's African Champions League quarterfinals. Zwane's presence should help Tau and Mothiba focus their energies on finishing the chances he will create from the midfield.
LIBYA
HAMDOU ELHOUNI - MIDFIELDER
He is the most dangerous of all the attacking players for Libya.
He plays as a No 10 and has contributed two goals in the qualifiers, two behind Anis Satlou, who scored a hat-trick in the 8-1 win over minnows Seychelles in their last qualifier in November.
That Elhouni was once in the books of Portuguese giants Benfica should underline his credentials as a danger man for The Mediterranean Knights.
Sfax will be familiar territory for Elhouni having joined Tunisian giants Esperance last year. He is the player the Libyans will call on to influence their attack as they seek the three points to qualify for Egypt.
MOHAMED EL MONIR - LEFT-BACK
Monir is one the most talented of the Libyan players. His influence on the games from the deep left-back position, where his surging runs start, creates havoc for any opposition.
Monir is also one of the few Libyan players plying their trade abroad and has been a regular feature in his Major League side Los Angeles in the US.
His pace will test the Bafana defence but, if closed down quickly, the Libyans will have fewer chances to create anything major.
Keeping Monir quiet may prove to be a tough task for Bafana as they also have Elhouni to contend with on that left-hand side, meaning whoever Baxter puts there will have a torrid night.
ISMAEL TAJOURI-SHRADI - STRIKER
Tajouri-Shradi has only featured in three games for Libya before and, like Monir, is one of the few Libyans playing abroad.
What might have sparked an interest for Libya in Tajouri-Shradi is the fact that he scored 12 goals for his Major League club, New York City, last year. The 24-year-old striker would have to be man-marked throughout the 90 minutes if Bafana are to come out tops in Sfax.
Yet to score a goal in the colours of Libya, Tajouri-Shradi may be the player that other attacking players in the Libyan side can feed off against Bafana.
That should mean Hlatshwayo and company must be on the alert for the second ball in front of goals. Tajouri-Shradi's big frame means he is capable of shielding the ball while waiting for support from his teammates.
Giving Tajouri-Shradi space to do whatever he likes could be suicidal for Bafana. His scoring rate in the US suggests that he is the player Bafana cannot afford to leave with space and sight of goal. Once Bafana have closed all the supply line to Tajouri-Shradi, half of their job would have been done in Sfax.

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