South Africa - Cape Verde Islands Preview: Africa Cup of Nations kicks-off in front of sell-out crowd
About 87 000 fans will turn out to watch the opening fixture of the 2013 Afcon which will be a tough test for the hosts, who face a motivated debutant outfit
By Daniel Eslick
Matlaba, Khumalo, Sangweni, Ngongca
Serero, Furman, Dikgacoi, Phala
CAPE VERDE ISLANDS
Varela, Gege, Nando, Nivaldo
Babanco, Soares, Platini, Varela
The 2013 Africa Cup of Nations is set to commence on Saturday, with hosts South Africa facing surprise package Cape Verde Islands at Soccer City in Johannesburg. The clash will be a test of nerves and belief for the home side, who are playing under the burden of expectation in front of 87 000 fans.
Neither side has experienced any injury concerns on the eve of the match, with both coaches free to choose their best XI for the opening fixture.
South African coach Gordon Igesund has been silent regarding releasing his team sheet before the match, deciding to keep his tactics under wraps until the tournament finally begins.
South Africa will hope for Thulani Serero to fire, as the Ajax Amsterdam midfielder is certainly the host's most capable attacking player. South Africa have looked to develop a fast-paced, quick passing game which plays into their strengths.
Katlego Mphela, Bafana Bafana's top-scorer, will look to add to his impressive tally of goals for the national side, despite his lacklustre performances in front of goal during preparations for the tournament.
The hosts have been unable to find the back of the net in the build-up to the tournament, with a 1-0 loss against a second-string Norwegian side and a 0-0 draw against Algeria sparking criticism from around the country's footballing fraternity.
Cape Verde are playing in the first finals in their history, a remarkable feat for one of the smallest countries in Africa. Their journey to the Africa Cup of Nations involved knocking out a fancied Cameroonian side, which has certainly raised eyebrows about the capabilities of the Islanders.
They have enjoyed a positive build-up to the tournament, utilising their hard-running football with a 0-0 draw against Nigeria being their most impressive result.
The Islanders possess a squad which is capable to beat anyone on its day, with the likes of Lille's Ryan Mendes as their first line of attack. The team have been known to play a high intensity brand of football, which is designed to close down opponents quickly.
Coach Lucio Antunes has reminded everyone that Cape Verde play without any fear and their never-say-die attitude will be put to the test in front of a partisan sell-out crowd on Saturday.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- The last time South Africa played Cape Verde Islands was during qualification fixtures for the 2006 Fifa World Cup, and Bafana Bafana were able to beat the Islanders both home and away.
- South Africa have only been able to net 7 goals in 8 matches under coach Gordon Igesund (pictured right).
- 15 of the 23-man South African squad ply their trade in South Africa's local Premier Soccer League. The remaining eight play in clubs in Sweden, Belgium, Netherlands, Greece and England.
- Cape Verde are the smallest nation playing in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, with their population totalling 500 000.
- Cape Verde stunned Cameroon during qualification for the tournament, with a 3-2 aggregate victory.
- Ricardo, recognised as Cape Verde's most talented defender, decided to continue playing for Pacos de Ferreira rather than represent the national side during the tournament.
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Top 3 Predictions
South Africa 2-1 Cape Verde
- 24.65 %
South Africa 2-0 Cape Verde
- 12.5 %
South Africa 3-1 Cape Verde
- 10.42 %
|Africa Cup of Nations (ACN)||Jan 19, 2013||South Africa 0 - Cape Verde 0|
|Mar 5, 2014||South Africa 0 - Brazil 5||FR|
|Jan 19, 2014||Nigeria 3 - South Africa 1||CHAN|
|Jan 15, 2014||South Africa 1 - Mali 1||CHAN|
|Jan 11, 2014||South Africa 3 - Mozambique 1||CHAN|
|Nov 19, 2013||South Africa 1 - Spain 0||FR|
|16||Itumeleng Isaac Khune||Goalkeeper|
|8||Lawrence Siphiwe Tshabalala||Midfielder|
|17||Bernard Melvin Parker||Striker|
|-||Siboniso Pa Gaxa|
|-||Peter Tsepo Masilela|
|-||May Siphiwe Mahlangu|
|-||Tokelo Anthony Rantie||Striker|
Serero will be the man who South Africa will hope can lift them from the doldrums in attack, with his speed and creative ability at the forefront of his many skills.
Mendes has been a threat for Cape Verde ever since he made his debut for the side and has the potential to score vital goals and beat defenders with his pace and dribbling ability.
South Africa have suffered from profligacy in front of goal and will struggle to put more than one away against a confident Cape Verde side, who will fight until the bitter end and should come away with at least a point from the opening encounter of the Africa Cup of Nations.
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed