Former Bafana Bafana midfielder Eric Tinkler believes South Africa’s opening game against Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Egypt later in June will be key to their quarterfinal prospects.

Stuart Baxter’s side take on the Elephants in Cairo on June 24, before going on to play Namibia and then Morocco in a tough Group D.

In fact, their pool has been deemed the ‘Group of Death’ by many analysts and fans alike, with Tinkler pointing to the first game and also the clash against minnows Namibia as holding the keys for Bafana.

South Africa left the country on Monday morning for Dubai, where they will play Ghana at the weekend, before heading to the June-21-to-July-19 finals in Egypt.

Baxter’s side will enter the continental showpiece currently ranked 14th in Africa and 73rd globally.

They are only three places behind the Ivorians amongst CAF-ranked teams, with the Moroccans fourth in Africa.

Namibia, meanwhile, are 28th and 113th globally.

Tinkler admits that Ivory Coast are no longer the force they use to be, but says Bafana cannot afford to take anyone lightly. – Report by Thahir Asmal