Africa Nations 2013: Group A Focus - South Africa edgy ahead of Cabo Verde fixture
South Africa vs. Cabo Verde
Bafana Bafana kick off the tournament against tiny Cabo Verde at the Soccer City in Johannesburg. Coach Gordon Igesund and his squad’s build up to the tournament has had a lacklustre finish which, coupled with their recent poor record in the tournament, has seen pressure mount on the hosts.
The nation will certainly hope for an improvement on the World Cup, where they became the first hosts to fall at the group stage, and that repeated changes in management and inconsistent player selection will not damage their chances.
Bafana Bafana have only scored seven times in eight games and Ingesund will be looking for Bernard Parker, who has been in prolific form for the Kaiser Chiefs, and Katlego Mphela to be more ruthless for their side. Ingesund is playing his cards close to his chest, refusing to name his line-up until close to the game.
South Africa will be favourites over the debutantes, but the Blue Sharks should not be underestimated. After finishing their build-up with a creditable stalemate against Nigeria, striker Luis Mendes said: “It’s our first time going to the Nations Cup, so there is no pressure on us.”
The Blue Sharks will be led by Lille’s Mendes and will need to use their hardworking, pressing game to produce a result. Additionally, Coach Lucio Antunes has repeated that Cabo Verde have a never-say-die approach and will play without fear.
The onus on the hosts to attack may play into the hands of the counter-attacking Cabo Verdeans. The supposed minnows may provide a real test for a nervous favourite.
Angola vs. Morocco
The Palancas Negras and the Atlas Lions meet in the second match of the day, with both looking to put 2012’s tournament behind them - neither team made it out of the group stage.
Whether or not a reaction to the caution of previous coach Lito Vidigal, Angola look to be enjoying their football again. Under new Coach, Gustavo Ferrin should line-up in a 4-3-3 formation, after a brief flirtation with a 3-5-2 system almost led to disaster. The formation plays to the team’s strengths, utilizing the pace of full-backs Miguel and Lunguinha, who arguably, with wide attackers Djalma Campos and Mateus, will provide most supply for Angola’s talismanic striker Manucho.
However, the Palancas Negras full-backs getting forward will naturally leave space behind. Arguably the one team not do this against is Morocco. The Atlas Lions have a plethora of attacking midfielders, including the likes of Younes Belhanda, Abdelaziz Barrada and Karim El Hamadi to exploit the space left by Angola. The question may be whether the flair can be taken advantage of.
Coach Rachid Taoussi will hope his decision to omit captain, penalty taker and main goal scorer Houssine Kharja from the last tournament will not backfire. The line is now led by the less prolific Youssef El Arabi.
However, with both teams stronger going forward than defensively, the match has the potential to be an exciting one.
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