AFCON 2013: Group A Focus – All to play for with hosts under pressure

After both opening group matches ended in stalemate there is all to play for in Group A of the Africa Cup of Nations. Each team knows a victory should put them in a strong position to qualify to the knockout stages of the tournament. The double header in the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Wednesday may go some way to determining who progresses.

South Africa vs. Angola

Fans of Bafana Bafana have to hope their team can improve against the Palancas Negras. South Africa’s performance against an industrious and organized Cabo Verde may be described kindly as turgid. Coach Gordon Igesund put this down to nerves but lack of team play, poor decision making and some woeful passing and crossing suggests deeper problems.

Midfielders Kagisho Dikgacoi and his substitute Lerato Chabangu have been ruled out by injury meaning Oldham’s Dean Furman may start. The match may also see a recall for striker Katelgo Mphela, who has promised to end his country’s goal drought, as well as the experienced Tsepo Mailela at left-back to counter the Angolan threat out wide.

Mphela’s promise may have to be called upon. Angola looked threatening against Morocco and could have won if Guilherme Afonso or Manucho had put away just one of their chances. The attacking trio of Manucho, Mateus and Geraldo worked well together and will provide a stern test for Bafana Bafana’s defence, especially if Manucho can get the service from out wide.

South Africa need to get early momentum and the crowd behind them. If they start slowly again not only may they lose the fans but may let Angola into the game. If Angola do gain a foothold there is a strong possibility the hosts will not get past the group stages.

Morocco vs. Cabo Verde

Morocco will be favourites to get past Cabo Verde. The Atlas Lions showed their attacking midfield quality in the opening match against Angola. Coach Rachid Taoussi has his team playing attractive, passing football and they move the ball around quickly.

However their play often broke down in the final third with over-elaboration or poor finishing and if they fail to score again, Taoussi may be questioned over his decision to omit Houssine Kharja. The coach couls hand a start to Younes Belhanda in the hope he can turn the Moroccan threat into goals.

Nevertheless the Blue Sharks should have drawn strength and confidence from their point against South Africa in their tournament debut. Coach Lucio Antunes has built a hard-working team, who are well prepared and organized. Marshalled by their captain, the excellent Fernando Neves and fellow centre-back Fernando Varela, Cabo Verde showed how difficult they can be to break down, though Antunes has injury worries over Toni Varela and Babanco.

The Verdeans also looked more accomplished on the ball than South Africa, keeping possession well. They created several good chances and will hope for more composure in front of goal, especially against a Morocco side who can never be too sure which defence will turn up.

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