South Africa coach Gordon Igesund played the same team against Angola and Morocco in their last two Group A games. They say you shouldn't change a winning team, though, technically Bafana drew against Morocco. The criticised defensive line-up against Cape Verde had also picked up a draw, but that was against a team that progressed to the quarterfinals.
Every team has different strengths and weaknesses, so Igesund needs to choose a team that fits in with his strategy to beat the West African team at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
“I can confirm that I will not select the same side that played Morocco. I had to make a couple of adjustments to the side, taking a few considerations such as the type of team (Mali) we are up against.
“I already have my starting eleven, although I will not reveal it now, but I am confident that we have what it takes to win the match,” said Igesund.
In the beginning of the tournament Bafana seemed to have struggled with keeping possession, but later started to adapt to the pressure of hosting the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. Igesund said that his team is now in a better state to impress and are prepared for the challenge. This is in response to his revelation that South Africa were nervous for the opening game.
“My players have responded very well, and I think every coach in the Afcon would have been proud to coach them,” he said.
Mali comes into this match with a great record of never having lost a match to a host nation. The last time these two teams met, Bafana went down 2-0 in the quarterfinal stage of the 2002 Afcon.
“I think at this time it is important to focus on the future, not the past, I am not even thinking about the past results. I think we need to acknowledge that they have a great team but that doesn't mean we should give them credit and fear them.
“We know what to do, and it is important for us to stay focused and play our own football. They must dance to our music and not the other way around. As I have always said, it is important to play to your strengths and that is what I entail doing,” said Igesund.
This is a key confirmation from Igesund. Even though he has researched Mali thoroughly, he will stick to Bafana's strengths. That would probably mean keeping the pacey forwards of the likes of Tokelo Rantie who proved successful in the last two games. He might not have scored, but worked tirelessly and made space for the rest of the team lurking upfront.
One will have to wait to see whether he will drop Katlego Mphela back to the bench. The Sundowns striker was quiet against Morocco, and Igesund could use him as an impact player late on. This time he could start with Lehlohonolo Majoro, who scored an inspired goal against Angolo, and has shaken off the injury that ruled him out against Morocco.