AFCON 2013: Group A Focus – Matchday three to decide qualification

The final matches in Group A of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations will determine who goes through to the knockout round with all four teams still in the hunt.

South Africa vs. Morocco

Bafana Bafana go into the match needing only a point against the Atlas Lions to ensure qualification. Coach Gordon Igesund will look for his team to build on an improved performance that saw the hosts beat Angola 2-0 in the previous fixtures. Igesund is pleased with the mood in the camp, stating; “The boys are looking good. They are all excited and positive. They are all showing strong character.” South Africa looked a much more balanced team against Angola with Dean Furman – arguably man of the match – pulling the strings in midfield. Igesund may well keep the same line-up apart from the injured Lehlohonolo Majoro and Tokelo Rantie.

Morocco need to win to ensure qualification and will have to take the game to South Africa. Igesund though seems calm about the threat, saying, “If we come up against a team that is a bit more open we are not going to defend, we’re going to make sure that we can score some goals.

Lions coach Rachid Taoussi needs his team to take the initiative. Against Cabo Verde, Taoussi arguably made the mistake of previous Lions coaches – trying to shoehorn all their attacking midfield talent into the same team. Only at half time when Youssef El Arabi was sent on for Nordin Amrabat did Morocco balanced, and it was El Arabi who scored the equalizer. Taoussi insists his team is tactically, physically and psychologically prepared. South Africa may well disagree.

Cabo Verde vs. Angola

The two Portuguese speaking nations meet in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth, with the unbeaten Cabo Verde having surprised many at this tournament. The Blue Sharks followed an opening draw against the hosts with another against Morocco, conceding only 12 minutes from time.

Coach Luico Antunes said: “This game is crucial for the two teams as victory could take us through to the quarter-finals, we will do our best to win the game, which will be difficult against a good Angola team who parade some talented players who can create trouble for us,” after revealing his surprise at his opponents’ poor performance against the hosts: “The real Angola is certainly not the one who played with South Africa, I know the team is capable of doing much more than they showed in the last round.””

Gustavo Ferrin’s Palancas Negras do have some talented players however for all their attacking threat on display, Angola have yet to find the back of the net at this tournament. Despite stating he wanted to blood some youngsters, Ferrin may be under pressure to change. With the midfield currently looking slow and uncreative, there appears to be calls for the more experienced players to be restored to the line-up.

Even then whether this would be enough to get them past a hard-working, united Cabo Verde remains to be seen.

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