Bongani Zungu of South Africa celebrates his goal during the match against Namibia at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cairo on June 28. | ©Gavin Barker BackpagePix
Bongani Zungu of South Africa celebrates his goal during the match against Namibia at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cairo on June 28. | ©Gavin Barker BackpagePix

Can Bafana beat Egypt? Here is what local football legends think

By Sameer Naik Time of article published Jul 6, 2019

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Bafana Bafana’s all-time leading goal scorer Benni McCarthy isn't expecting any surprises when South Africa take on Egypt at the Cairo International Stadium tonight.

The Cape Town City FC manager fully expects the hosts to progress as they face Bafana Bafana in the African Cup of Nations last-16 clash. 

“In my honest opinion I don’t really think that we’ll shock the whole of Africa by beating the hosts and favorites to win this Afcon,” McCarthy told the Saturday Star. “The negative football we’ve played thus far doesn’t give me much excitement going in to the game, but then again in football anything is possible.”  

Bafana Bafana were paired against the hosts on Tuesday after qualifying as one of the four best third-placed teams in the tournament. 

They ended the group stages with one win and two losses, with the only win coming against Namibia. 

While Bafana Bafana have a healthy record against the Pharaohs in previous encounters, McCarthy doesn’t see Egypt faltering at home in front of a fully packed Cairo International Stadium. 

Benni McCarthy | Leon Lestrade African News Agency.

“Playing the hosts with their massive support and a very strong team, this has to be the toughest draw of the knockout stages,” says McCarthy.

“So far Egypt has been very consistent and lethal in attack with the likes of Mohamed Salah and Mahmoud Trezeguet been the stand out performers in their squad.”

Should Bafana have a chance of beating the tournament favourites, every player will have to be at their best, said McCarthy.

“If they are to defeat Egypt, it will take a lot of hard work and great team effort to do so.”

“If we can do a good job in stopping them from playing, then we definitely have half a chance of knocking them out.”

McCarthy, who is second on AFCON’s list of top scorers in a single tournament, is less than impressed with Bafana’s showing in the tournament so far.

“I think we’ve been very conservative in our matches so far and haven’t played to our strengths and utilised the quality players we have in abundance.”

“I don’t think we were brave enough in the group stage matches. Playing not to lose isn’t the Bafana Bafana way. Hopefully we will see a Bafana coming out playing positive attacking football and with some intent to take the fight to Egypt.”

Aaron Mokoena | Etienne Rothbart.

Former Bafana Bafana captain Aaaron Mokoena says he is unsure of the outcome of tonight’s game, as South Africa have been inconsistent in the tournament so far. 

“In the three games we have played so far, we have had three different teams, and three different performances,” says Mokoena.

“Im sitting here now wondering what team is going to turn up tomorrow.”

“Against Ivory Coast we didnt do well at all . When we took on Namibia our performance was much better. I felt that there was confidence running through the team and they had an understanding on the pitch and the combination of passes were good.

“Then we take on Morocco, and we looked way too defensive.  There was not a single time where we hit Morocco on the counter attack. We didnt hurt them or ask any questions. The worst part is that we looked like we were just waiting for the whistle to blow so the game can finish.” 

“I have worked with Stuart Baxter and so I am really surprised by the number of changes he has made to the team.  It will be difficult to figure out who Stuart will start for the game and which Bafana team will turn up.”

The former Portsmouth FC and Blackburn Rovers defender believes Bafana Bafana have to be ‘brave’ if they are to overcome the mighty Pharaohs.

“There is a chance, a big one,  but we cannot sit back and hope for the best. We need to give Egypt a tough time, we need to make sure that we can turn their defenders. With the talent we have in the speedy Percy Tau we have to make sure we hurt them.” 

Meanwhile, African Cup of Nations winner Mark Fish believes that Bafana Bafana stand a huge chance of causing an upset tonight. 

“To be in the last round of 16 playing against the host nation with revered players like Salag and Trezeguet is a great opportunity for Bafana Bafana to show who they truly are.” 

“Even though Egypt has a world class squad, this is after all a football match and anything can happen. 

“If we do all the things that we are capable of doing defensively and going forward, we certainly will make a game of it and make it very difficult for Egypt to get anything out of the game .”

Mark Fish | Paballo Thekiso.

Fish says Bafana need to relish the ‘huge occasion”. 

“For any footballer out there, there is nothing better than playing in front of 75 000 people and in front of hostile fans. This is what you worked towards,  playing in a full house where you have the opportunity to showcase your talent, and go out and perform to the best of your abilities.” 

“So do I think we have a chance? We certainly do have an unbelievable chance as long as the players realise it . They need to go out and play to the best of their abilities, play with confidence on and off the ball, and we certainly can get something out of tomorrows game.” 

Shaun Bartlett, who was also part of the1996 Afcon winning team,  believes a surprise is on the cards, should Bafana play to their full potential.

“Playing the host will always be difficult as they have a 12th man in the fans in the stadium. If we play to our potential, we can surprise them for sure,” says Bartlett. 

“We should not overemphasize the Salah factor as they have quality all over the field and can hurt us in every department. So we need to play to our strengths but be organized when defending as a unit.

However form nor momentum is on our side and so it will be an extremely tough match. I always believe that it's what you show on match day that determines who wants it more.”

Orlando Pirates legend and long time former assistant coach Tebogo Moloi believes that playing the host nation in front of its intimidating supporters, will be challenging for Bafana Bafana. 

“The boys need to go to this game with a strong mentality. I mean, our group stages matches, the team didn’t play to the expectations - Bafana has not come to party,” says Moloi. 

“Without exaggerating, it's reasonable to suggest that there is perhaps no side better suited in world football to causing Egypt problems than Bafana Bafana at this stage.”

“Egypt will come gun-blazing wanting to impress its citizens and progress to the next stage. It is possible for Bafana Bafana to cause a tournament upset and beat Egypt.

 As South Africa, we have done it before at club level through Pirates and Sundowns”. 

Teboho Moloi | Matthews Baloyi.

Moloi believes that this is the toughest game Baxter has had to prepare for since taking charge of the national team.

“I have hope that when we face tough opponents, we have that thing to rise to the occasion. It is a difficult task, but it is possible. We have it in us as a nation.

“In 1996, who thought we can beat the tough Ghana? And oh boy, we surprised everybody. They must fight hard in the field even if they lose, they lose with pride. They need to raise their game and carry the SA flag to the highest height.”

Moloi believes Bafana Bafana didn't rise to the occasion thus far. 

“This is an opportunity to demonstrate their tenacity and carry the 56 million citizens who will be watching them on Saturday.” 

“One of the right tactics coach Baxter applied and did right on the second game, was to play the core players from Sundowns FC. Those players have experience from CAF Club championship and can play at that level. We need to use the CAF team experience from Sundowns player.”

“I hope and pray that Percy Tau will continue with his form as he has done so far. This young man has shown his quality from the qualifying stage and now at AFCON. He has carried us on his shoulder and I have faith he will mesmerize the Egyptians on Saturday.”

Former Bafana Bafana captain Aaron Mokoena is unsure of the outcome of tonight’s game.

“In the three games we have played so far, we have had three different teams, and three different performances,” says Mokoena.

“I’m sitting here now wondering what team is going to turn up (tonight). Against Ivory Coast we didn’t do well at all. When we took on Namibia our performance was much better. I felt that there was confidence running through the team and they had an understanding on the pitch and the combination of passes were good.

“Then we take on Morocco, and we looked way too defensive. There was not a single time where we hit Morocco on the counter-attack. We didn’t hurt them or ask any questions. The worst part is that we looked like we were just waiting for the whistle to blow so the game could finish.

“I have worked with Stuart Baxter and so I am really surprised by the number of changes he has made to the team. It will be difficult to figure out who Stuart will start for the game and which Bafana team will turn up.”

The former Portsmouth FC and Blackburn Rovers defender believes Bafana Bafana have to be “brave” if they are to overcome the mighty Pharaohs.

“There is a chance, a big one, but we cannot sit back and hope for the best. We need to give Egypt a tough time, we need to make sure that we can turn their defenders. With the talent we have in the speedy Percy Tau, we have to make sure we hurt them.”

Afcon winner Mark Fish believes Bafana Bafana stand a chance of causing an upset in Cairo.

“To be in the last round of 16 playing against the host nation with revered players like Salah and Tré* éguet is a great opportunity for Bafana Bafana to show who they truly are. Even though Egypt has a world-class squad, this is after all a football match and anything can happen.

“If we do all the things that we are capable of doing defensively and going forward, we certainly will make a game of it and make it very difficult for Egypt to get anything out of the game.”

Bafana need to relish the “huge occasion”, he believes.

“For any footballer out there, there is nothing better than playing in front of 75000 people - and in front of hostile fans.

“This is what you worked towards, playing in a full house where you have the opportunity to showcase your talent, and go out and perform to the best of your abilities.

“So do I think we have a chance? We certainly do have an unbelievable chance, as long as the players realise it. If they go out and play to the best of their abilities, play with confidence on and off the ball, then we certainly can get something out of the game.”

Shaun Bartlett, who was also part of the team that won the 1996 Afcon, believes a surprise could be on the cards.

Shaun Bartlett | Etienne Rothbart.

“Playing the hosts will always be difficult as they have a twelfth man in the fans in the stadium. If we play to our potential, we can surprise them for sure,” says Bartlett.

“We should not overemphasise the Salah factor as they have quality all over the field and can hurt us in every department. So we need to play to our strengths but be organised when defending as a unit.

“However, form nor momentum are on our side and so it will be an extremely tough match. I always believe that it’s what you show on match day that determines who wants it more.”

Orlando Pirates legend and former long-time assistant coach Teboho Moloi believes playing the host nation in front of its intimidating supporters will be challenging for Bafana Bafana.

“The boys need to go to this game with a strong mentality. I mean, in our group-stage matches, the team didn’t play to expectations - Bafana has not come to party,” says Moloi.

“Without exaggerating, it’s reasonable to suggest that there is perhaps no side better suited in world football to cause Egypt problems than Bafana Bafana at this stage.

“Egypt will come out guns blazing, wanting to impress their citizens and progress to the next stage. It’s possible for Bafana Bafana to cause a tournament upset and beat Egypt. As South Africa, we have done it before at club level through Pirates and Sundowns.”

The Saturday Star

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