Decision time is here at the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) and for Group C, it is a close call for all four teams, though group leaders Senegal have a foot in the next round, while Algeria, Ghana and South Africa need dramatic wins to save their campaigns.
Senegal are pretty safe with their four points, needing just a draw in their final game to sail through. Ghana, who had a jerky start, have been revived by their win against Algeria last Friday, and are even tied with Algeria on three points and could also advance with a draw, but the South Africans can only be saved by a convincing win.
South Africa face a revived Ghana in Mongomo, while Algeria play Senegal in Malabo.
The Black Stars say they are in no mood to share points, but eager to claim all three points and possibly top the group, the tough hurdle they face in Bafana Bafana notwithstanding.
In the history of their meetings at the AFCON, the Black Stars have never beaten South Africa, but hope tomorrow’s crucial tie will end in their favour, more out of their quest to keep their campaign on track rather than to even old scores.
The Stars and bafana Bafana have played three times in the AFCON, in 1996 when they hosted and won, beating Ghana 3-0 in the semi finals, in 2000 which they won 1-0 in Kumsi and in 2002 which ended in goalless.
In plotting South Africa’s downfall, Coach Avram Grant will have to find a way of getting his charges to contain them. They are fast-paced and quite skillful, capable of creating all kinds of trouble for one’s defence.
So far, the Stars defence has shown calm and composure but they can be pushed to the wall by the exuberant South Africans, whose weaknesses include inexperience, choosing to walk the ball into the opponents’ net, instead of trying shots from afar.
In this final game, however, Coach Ephraim ‘Shakes’ Mashaba is hoping those mistakes will be corrected and could end their search for their first three points with a win against Ghana.
That could be a tall order, considering that the Stars themselves have had their appetite whetted and are looking for more wins.
It may not be the right time to change the winning team or performing team, but it may not be harmful if one or two changes are made, especially starting someone ahead of Jordan Ayew, perhaps.
Ahead of this clash, both sides, sharing the same hotel, are preparing behind closed doors, not ready to give the other the slightest idea what their game plan is.
But while Coach Avram Grant has the strength of his full squad to choose from, Shakes Mashaba will have to wait till this afternoon to know if defender Rivaldo Roberto Gotetzee and midfielder Thuso Phala will recover in time for tomorrow’s clash after receiving knocks during their group clash with Sengal.