Who will Bafana draw?
Stuart Baxter’s side will be quietly confident of progressing—despite leaving it late in qualifying—but will be desperate for a favourable draw ahead of June’s continental showpiece.
Ahead of the draw, Ed Dove assesses the best and worst case scenarios for Bafana Bafana, as four pots become six groups.
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Who to avoid?
Pot One – Egypt are the team that everyone will be desperate to avoid when Friday’s draw rolls around. While the Pharaohs may have endured a disappointing World Cup, they’ve bounced back under Javier Aguirre and will take confidence from November’s 3-2 home victory over Tunisia.
Unlike in Russia, they should have Mohamed Salah—Africa’s best player—fit and firing for the tournament itself, and home support—they’ll play all three group games in Cairo—makes them a fearsome prospect.
Best case scenario might be Cameroon, who haven't been entirely convincing since Clarence Seedorf took the helm, and were recently held by the tiny Comoros Islands.
The possible candidates
Pot Two – The Ivory Coast are a worrying prospect in Pot Two. Bafana have proved themselves defensively during qualification, but could a backline that's predominently based in the PSL keep the likes of Wilfried Zaha, Nicholas Pepe, Gervinho and Max-Alain Gradel at bay?
Best case scenario might be the Democratic Republic of Congo; a talented side, but defensively suspect at times.
The preferred candidates?
Pot Four – South Africa have lacked imagination against weaker opponents and the quality to break down stubborn defences under Baxter, so there are a few banana skins in Pot Four.
Zimbabwe kept two clean sheets during qualifying, and won away in the Democratic Republic of Congo, so their defence knows how to get the job done as well.
Best case scenario would be neighbours Namibia, whose defence could struggle to contain Bafana’s frontmen.