By FOCUS REPORTER
SOUTH Africa can eliminate seven-time continental champions Egypt from
the qualifying stage for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations if they avoid
defeat against their North African hosts in a crunch Group G match at
the Cairo Military Academy Stadium on Sunday night, kick-off at 8.30pm
Should Niger defeat Sierra Leone in their match on Saturday in Freetown
and the Pharaohs fail to beat Bafana Bafana, then Hassan Shehata’s
charges will officially be ruled out of qualifying for next year’s
finals in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
However, it would perhaps be preferable for South Africa if Sierra Leone
defeated Niger – this would mean Bafana would remain top of the group
regardless of their result against Egypt, while a victory in Cairo would
then have the double benefit of both eliminating the North Africans and
putting Pitso Mosimane’s team within touching distance of qualification.
Bafana Bafana have spent the last week in camp and played a practice
match against third-tier side Baroka FC over the weekend, winning 5-0.
“It was a good exercise which helped all of us especially those who
haven’t been playing in a while since the end of the league season,”
said Belgian-based defender Siboniso Gaxa.
“It was also crucial for the coach to see what progress has been made
since the beginning of the week and what still needs to be done. We
wanted to fine-tune ourselves ahead of the all-important clash against
Egypt next weekend and we are all aware it’s going to be a difficult
one. They are under pressure to do well and have everything to lose so
we must create chances and take them,” added Gaxa.
This will be South Africa’s first competitive away match against Egypt.
Bafana have played two international friendlies against the Pharaohs in
Cairo. The first, in November 2003, saw the North Africans win 2-1. The
second was a warm-up game prior to the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations, which
Bafana won 2-1. However, Egypt went on to win the tournament, while SA
were eliminated in the group phase.