South Africa come into the Equatorial Guinea tournament with high hopes after an unbeaten qualification campaign, in a group which saw the current holders Nigeria fail to make it through. The team is currently probably in the best shape it has been in for some time and they will look to make the Quarter-Finals but will be up against it having been drawn in the Group of Death with Algeria, Ghana and Senegal.
Bournemouth’s Tokelo Rantie, scorer of important goals in qualification will be one to look out for Bafana Bafana, his double in a 2-2 draw with Nigeria in Uyo was particularly impressive. Manager Ephraim Mashaba has at his disposal a quick and strong team with plenty of international experience. The squad has the most home-based players from any in the competition, with a total of 5 players from Johannesburg’s Kaizer Chiefs club. The squad does boast some overseas based players though, notably Anele Ngconga of Belgium’s Racing Genk, a strong defender who will be important to the team in Equatorial Guinea and captain Dean Furman of England’s Doncaster Rovers who will look to dominate midfield along with Ajax’s impressive Thulano Serero.
It has been a particularly harrowing build-up to the tournament for the South Africans with former captain and goal-keeper Senzo Meyiwa shot and killed last November, leaving a huge gap, the popular player a leading figure in South African sport and a very influential part of the squad. It remains to be seen if Bafana Bafana can use his passing as inspiration to perform well in his memory.
The South Africans will certainly play their part in the tournament’s Group of Death, and will be a test for all the other teams. Personally I see Senegal and Algeria as the qualifiers from the group so predict Bafana Bafana will return home early, though as usual the AFCoN can throw up surprises so I would not be surprised at all to see my prediction proved wrong.