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Mamelodi Sundowns know they won’t find romance in Casablanca

Sundowns goalkeeper Ronwen Williams can’t afford to make any mistakes in the first leg of the African Football League final against Wydad Casablanca

Sundowns goalkeeper Ronwen Williams can’t afford to make any mistakes in the first leg of the African Football League final against Wydad Casablanca. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

Published Nov 4, 2023


There is nothing that can be taken for granted when Mamelodi Sundowns and Wydad Athletic Club of Casablanca clash, such is the nature of how evenly-matched the two teams are.

Those who bet on such things risk losing it all should they pick one side over another, but they will do it anyway.

Saturday’s first leg clash in the final of the inaugural African Football League (AFL) out in Casablanca will mark the 13th time the two sides go head to head.

And to use the previous 12 clashes between the two as an indicator of what might happen would not be of that much help either – with none of those matches ever producing a victor by more than a one-goal margin.

On those 12 occasions that the South African and Moroccan champions have crossed swords in the Caf Champions League, Wydad have won four times to Sundowns’ three, with five clashes having ended in a stalemate.

Who then will be victorious, at least in the first leg at what is sure to be a fully-packed Stade Mohamed V on Saturday night (8pm South African time kick-off)?

Wydad should trot on to the pitch a little more confident, given that they have generally had the better of Sundowns when they hosted them.

Only once in the six times they hosted Sundowns have the Moroccans conceded a goal.

And even then, they still ended up victorious, Wydad beating the Brazilians 2-1 in the Champions League semifinal back in 2019.

The late Anele Ngcongca scored what turned out to be a consolation goal, with Salaheddine Saidi and Badie Aouk finding the net for Wydad.

They won three other matches 1-0, with the other two clashes ending goalless.

The 70 000-seater Stade Mohamed V is a cauldron of a venue, which always sees the Wydad faithful chanting and bouncing up and down throughout the match in cheering their team on.

It is not that Sundowns will be intimidated. Far from it, for the Brazilians have been through this many times and will be expecting to have lasers directed at their eyes throughout the match.

Rulani Mokwena’s team showed against Al Ahly that they know how to eke out a result under difficult conditions – and anything close to that performance tomorrow, and there is every reason to foresee Sundowns registering their maiden victory over Wydad.

While they remained true to their passing game, Bafana ba Style were solid defensively and hardly panicked when under the cosh from a Red Devils outfit desperate for the goal, which would have seen the match being decided on a shoot-out from the penalty spot.

Of course, goalkeeper Ronwen Williams was uncharacteristically jittery early on in the game, and could have cost Sundowns the game with his poor handling of high balls in particular – so much so that he even conceded a penalty due to that.

That was but surely a once-off aberration for a player of his quality.

The South African No 1 has to be at his best against Wydad if the Brazilians are to set themselves up for a monstrous celebration party at Loftus Versfeld next weekend as the inaugural winners of a competition that is the brainchild of their club owner Patrice Motsepe, in his capacity as president of the Confederation of African Football.

It will take some doing, though, given just how evenly-matched they are with Wydad.