Bafana Bafana coach, Gordon Igesund has most definitely put his future with Bafana Bafana on the line with the very brave starting line-up he has opted for ahead today’s win-or-doom match for Bafana as they take on Angola in their second match of the Africa Cup of Nations. After the 90 minutes of play, Igesund could either be South Africa’s hero or the country’s most unwanted man, depending on how the team fares against Angola.

Firstly, the line-up has not been tested in a serious game situation and today it carries the nation’s hopes, which makes Igesund a very brave man to have made such huge changes and he most likely knows that his future depends on this intrepid decision he made.

Because of the individual enterprise and brilliance it could turn out to be a very astute move by Igesund, but on the contrary because of lack of cohesion among the players it could backfire terribly.

Igesund has made five changes to the team that played against Cape Verde Islands on Saturday with May Mahlangu, Tsepo Masilela, Tokelo Rantie, and Dean Furnam starting ahead of Thabo Matlaba, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Siphiwe Tshabalala and Lehlohonolo Majoro. Katlego Mphela who came on as a substitute in the previous match is also in the starting line-up.

Whichever way one chooses to look at this match, a different tactical and psychological approach should be expected from both sides.

Following a much-improved performance in the second half of their opening match against Cape Verde on Saturday, Igesund knows very well that it is only through creativity in the middle of the park that he could stand a chance of doing well against Angola. He would have certainly started with Thulani Serero, but with his match fitness in question, it makes good sense to spare the player and bring him on as a substitute later on during the match.

But can May Mahlangu turn the magic on for Bafana? His quality is in no question, but his readiness definitely is.

With Parker being as versatile as he is, he is expected to play primarily on the left side and add more attacking options for Bafana going forward, in support of Rantie and Mphela. Executed well, this could well cause havoc for Angola’s defence. But failure to keep possession by the host country could easily expose the line-up defensive weaknesses.

The only source of comfort for Bafana Bafana is that Angola’s defence has proven to crack if put under pressure. Zimbabwe managed to score three goals against in the first leg of their Afcon qualifying match. And Mahlangu will have to be on top of his game today if Bafana are to do well. The defence looked penetrable when Morocco combined short passes, with a lot of skill and some disguise passes. But it takes a team to play together for a while to master that kind of a ‘playmaking function’ – the opportunity which unfortunately this line-up hasn’t had, meaning individual brilliance is what Igesund is banking on.

On the other hand, Angola has proven to be the kind of team that never takes even what seems to be an obvious defeat lying down. After losing 3-1 in to Zimbabwe, with their hopes of travelling to South Africa blurred, they rose to the occasion to reverse their fortunes in the return leg match in Luanda. The Antelopes’ predatory striker, Manucho scored two goals in the first 10 minutes of the match, which ensured a 2-0 victory for Angola. With an aggregate score of 3-3, Angola qualified by virtue of an away-goal rule. Angola are expected to have noted the lack of unity in Bafana’s central pair of Bongani Khumalo and Siyabonga Sangweni at the back and will want to capitalise on that.
The Antelopes didn’t look their best when they drew with Morocco on Saturday, but knowing very well that a loss to South Africa could well dash their aspirations of rewriting history by advancing, for the first time, beyond the quarterfinals stages of the Afcon tournament, The Antelopes could be expected to come out charging as they did in their second leg match against Zimbabwe in Luanda.

Also working to Angola’s advantage is the fact that the match will take place in Durban, at Sea Level, which is pretty much the same conditions the players are used to in Angola. This means Bafana cannot expect their opposition to be disadvantaged by the low altitude.

On their day, Angola are well-known to be good at blending skill and their physical presence. Their technique is generally on a higher level as compared to that of Bafana Bafana’s.

Whichever way one chooses to look at this match, a different tactical and psychological approach should be expected from both sides. Bafana Starting XI: Itumeleng Khune; Tsepo Masilela, Bongani Khumalo, Siyabonga Sangweni, Anele Ngcongca; Bernard Parker, Dean Furman, May Mahlangu, Thuso Phala; Tokelo Rantie, Katlego Mphela.

– By Analysis: Sipho Kekana