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AFCON 2019


Ex-Bafana stars Pollen Ndlanya and Rowen Fernandez talk Afcon 2019

Ghana v South Africa: Squad and Player Values

24 June 2019, by Carl Lewis


We preview South Africa vs Ivory Coast in their Afcon 2019 opener tonight.

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Bafana Bafana and Stuart Baxter are in a precarious spot heading into Afcon 2019. There are no real expectations considering their recent tournament history. Plus the group they have been drawn is by no means an easy one. Joining them in Group D are first opponents Ivory Coast as well as Namibia and Morocco.

Despite a relatively negative sentiment around the team. Baxter’s men are actually on a good run. They haven’t lost since 2017. Bafana also qualified for Afcon by conceding just two goals in six matches (undefeated).

One negative is the lack of decent preparation for Afcon. They played only one warm-up match, a 0-0 draw against Ghana in Dubai. Angola cancelled their schedule warm up in Egypt.

South Africa traditionally put their best forward against ‘bigger teams’. This suits Baxter’s preferred style of play, to be compact in defence and hurt teams in transition.

Against an Ivorian side with dangerous attackers, Nicolas Pepe and Wilfred Zaha, one can almost bank on Bafana being content with a clean sheet. The expanded tournament means four third-placed teams qualify for the knockout stage. One could argue there is no incentive to risk being too ‘open’ on attack.

Ivory Coast have struggled to reach the heights of their Afcon glory in 2015. They suffered a group stage exit at Afcon 2017 which was compounded by the failure to qualify for last years World Cup in Russia.

It’s safe to say the Ivorians are in transition as a side after recent disappointment. The current squad is young and talented, but an unknown quantity on the big stage.

BET: Afcon 2019 South Africa v Ivory Coast

There seem to be no injury concerns on either side. Being South Africa’s Afcon 2019 opener, Baxter will be tempted to go with the 3-5-2 formation that served them sp well in their final qualifier against Libya.

For Ivory Coast, Nicolas Pepe scored 22 league goals as well as contributing 11 assists. His teammate Wilfried Zaha also enjoyed a productive season netting 10 goals and assisting 10 more for Crystal Palace.

Percy Tau is South Africa’s best player and scored four goals in the qualifying campaign. Tau won the Player of the Season award in Belgium after scoring 10 goals and assisting 11. In an expected conservative approach by Bafana, his link-up play with striker Lebo Mothiba will be crucial.

Almost surprisingly, in the six previous encounters between the two nations, Bafana have yet to suffer defeat against the Ivory Coast. The sides last clashed in 2014, South Africa were victorious in that friendly 2-0.

Bafana coach Stuart Baxter will almost certainly adopt a conservative approach considering the Ivorians are favourites. This is when South Africa are very hard to break down as a defence. It’s also the first match for both teams at the tournament, so you can expect a disjointed and cagey affair.

Prediction: South Africa 0-0 Ivory Coast (Suggested BET: Draw 1.95)


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