Mon 18 Mar by Mark Gleeson
South African football faces yet another crucial crossroads on Sunday, when the national team plays its last African Cup of Nations qualifier for the finals in Egypt in June.South Africa, despite winning away in Nigeria in the first group game in a sensational result that had them set for easy qualification, meet Libya in neutral Sfax in Tunisia needing to ensure they avoid defeat.If they do, South Africa will finish runners-up behind the Super Eagles but still qualify because, subsequent to the preliminaries kicking off, the size of the finals tournament was expanded to 24 teams and now the top two from each group advance.If Bafana are beaten, however, they will finish third and Libya second, and be out of the finals yet again in another body blow to the domestic game.South Africa can ill-afford to see yet another tournament pass it by. It is a dampener for supporters, hits sponsor confidence and leaves the reputation of the local game in tatters.
Bafana did not go to the last Nations Cup in 2017 after failing to win at home against the likes of tiny Gambia and Mauritania. This time round they slipped up at home against Libya and were held to a draw, which put them into this perilous position.Libya cannot host the game at the home because of a long-standing FIFA ban. The security situation in the country is considered dangerous with various rival factions and warlords battling for control over its oil wealth. It has been a tenuous situation since the overthrow of the Muammar Gaddafi regime in 2011.But that does not necessarily give South Africa much of an advantage and given Bafana’s habit of making life difficult for themselves, there will hardly be much confidence from TAB soccer punters when they consider their choices for the game.This weekend’s pools are full of last qualifiers for the 2019 Nations Cup and the first qualifiers for EURO-2020.
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