Johannesburg - Stronger defensive organisation will be one of the focus areas for Bafana Bafana as they prepare to face an emotional Mali team in the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations before a capacity crowd at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday.
Amid their joy of having a rare knockout berth in Africa’s premier competition, the South Africans acknowledge they should have done better at both goals netted by Morocco in their dramatic climax to Group A affairs here on Sunday night.
Goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune admits he personally should have done more to cut out the cornerkick from which Issam El Adoua scored in the 10th minute and coach Gordon Igesund also felt his men should have been more robust when substitute Abdelilah Hafdi gave the Atlas Lions a 2-1 lead before Siyabonga Sangweni levelled matters minutes from time.
Igesund already has to make one forced change in defence due to the suspension of Belgium-based right back Anele Ngcongca, with Thabo Matlaba challenging front-runner Sibo-niso Gaxa to fill the vacancy.
Ngcongca got his second booking of the tournament for roughing up the Atlas Lions’ Chahir Belghazouani on Sunday, warranting an automatic one-match ban.
Said Khune: “I should have attacked the ball when they scored the first goal. But we will have to work on these things in training.
It was not good for us to concede two goals, especially at home. We must go back to keeping clean sheets, which we did against Cape Verde and Angola. It is important we defend well in the next game and other games.”
Since Igesund went so far as to rate the two Moroccan goals as “silly” concessions, he will get down to working on the team’s shape today after giving the players a day off yesterday.
On the plus side, the coach expects Lehlohonolo Majoro to be available for selection, after the Chiefs striker missed the tie with Morocco through a gash he suffered on his leg at the end of last Wednesday’s victory over Angola.
In last night’s 1-1 draw at Moses Mabhida Stadium, DR Congo got off to a dream start when Bezua Mbokani beat Mali goalkeeper Mamadou Samassa from the spot in only the second minute of play, allowing pony-tailed Congolese keeper Muteba Kidiaba to perform his extraordinary goal celebration where he hops forward on his bum for more than a metre.
This resulted from Mbokani’s co-forward Ilunga Diba being brought down in the box by Mali’s defensive midfielder Mohamed Sissoko.
Mali hit back within 12 minutes as overlapping left back Adama Tamboura made his way towards the byline and squared the ball for striker Mahamadou Samassa to score.
Congo captain Ngangu Mulumbu forced Mali goalkeeper Mamadou Samassa to make a save on the ground in the 68th minute as Mali did not bother to chase ferociously for a second goal of their own.
Ghana, who totalled seven points from the three-match round-robin stage by defeating last-placed Niger 3-0 in Port Elizabeth last night, will stay in the Windy City for their quarter-final against plucky minnows Cape Verde on Saturday.