Crunch time for SA as they square up to Libya.

Fri 22 Mar by Mark Gleeson


South Africa’s recent failures in trying to qualify for international tournaments cast a shadow of worry and uncertainty over their crucial qualifier against Libya on Sunday.Bafana Bafana must avoid defeat to ensure a place at the expanded 24-team African Cup of Nations finals, but if Libya win they will go through from Group E and leave South Africa in the cold.That would mean not qualifying for the fourth time in the last six Nations Cup tournaments. South Africa also missed out in 2010, 2012 and two years ago in Gabon.As emergency hosts, Bafana did reach the 2013 quarter-finals, but should have done much better on home soil, blowing a chance to win the tournament by losing to Mali on post-match penalties.In the 2015 finals in Equatorial Guinea, South Africa did not get past the group stage, proving tactically naïve under coach Shakes Mashaba.Bafana have also missed three of the last four World Cup finals - and, of course, did not have to qualify for the 2010 finals which the country hosted. Just as well!It all adds up to a sorry tale of failure and missed opportunities and does not inspire confidence for Sunday’s assignment in Sfax.The one glimmer of hope is that the game is being played on neutral territory, albeit not far from the Libyan border.
Libya cannot host the game at home because of a long-standing FIFA ban and must find a neutral venue.The security situation in Libya is considered dangerous with various rival factions and war lords battling for control over the country’s oil wealth.The atmosphere in Sfax should be dull and lifeless, giving Bafana more of an opportunity.But there is massive pressure to deliver qualification and, on previous evidence, South African players often do not have the mental resilience to see the job through.
TAB soccer punters will deliberate long and hard how to play this one in TAB pools, but one goal is all Libya need to advance at Bafana’s expense.
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