Fri, Oct 06, 2006 - Page 22 News List

S Africa need win from crucial game

VICTORY IS VITAL The 1996 African champions must win in Zambia at the weekend to stand any chance of qualifying for the 2008 African Nations Cup in Ghana

AFP , CAIRO

The Ivory Coast soccer team's Arouna Kone, left, fights for the ball with teammate Steeve Gohoury during a training session in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on Wednesday.

PHOTO: AFP

Struggling South Africa must dodge defeat in Zambia on Sunday to maintain hope of playing in the 2008 African Nations Cup.

Only the winners of the 12 qualifying groups are guaranteed invitations to the biennial showcase and Bafana Bafana are already two points adrift of Zambia after being held 0-0 by Congo in Johannesburg last month.

Defeat for the goal-shy South Africans would leave them five points off the pace in Group 11 and all but eliminate them from the chase for one of 16 places at the three-week tournament in Ghana.

Bafana caretaker coach Pitso Mosimane begs to differ, but South Africans have become increasingly sceptical of national coaches promising much and delivering little.

The former South Africa striker succeeded Ted Dumitru, who boasted ahead of the Nations Cup in Egypt this year that his country would take the competition by storm only to lose their three pool matches without scoring a goal.

Zambia inflicted the last of those losses courtesy of a second-half goal from Christopher Katongo in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and he is expected to play a key role in Lusaka.

"We are eager to prove our victory was no fluke. There is a lot at stake with many of the Zambian squad playing for South African clubs," says the striker with Johannesburg's Jomo Cosmos. "It will be a tough game, but the way Zambia are playing means South Africa are doomed to fail. They will quake in front of the great supporters we have at Independence Stadium."

Even in the glory days of the past decade, South Africa never won in Zambia, and the fall and fall and fall of the 1996 Nations Cup winners seems set to carry on as defeat looms for a side that has scored just twice in eight games.

Southern Africa hosts several other ties with minnows Botswana in Group 2 and Lesotho in Group 3 confronting defending champions Egypt and last time's bronze medalists Nigeria respectively.

Angola, who sensationally qualified for this year's World Cup at the expense of Nigeria, host Kenya in Group 6 minus two injured Sweden-based players, defenders Yamba Asha and midfielder and captain Paulo Figueiredo.

While the Angolan Black Antelopes were comfortable 2-0 winners over Swaziland in the first round, Kenya surprisingly slumped 2-1 at home to Eritrea, prompting the resignation of French coach Bernard Lama.

It is uncertain whether German Burkhard Ziese will be in charge when Malawi host Zimbabwe in Blantyre as he suffered minor injuries during a training-ground scuffle with fans angered by a 2-0 Group 12 loss to Morocco.

Uli Stielike of Germany and Alain Giresse of France faced each other in the 1982 World Cup semi-finals and they meet again in Abidjan on Sunday when Ivory Coast launch their Group 1 campaign against resurgent Gabon.

Giresse guided Gabon to an unexpectedly easy 4-0 win over Madagascar, but 2006 Nations Cup runners-up Ivory Coast will prove far more formidable foes as Stielike can call on stars like Chelsea marksman Didier Drogba.

The absence of injured Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o, winner of the last three African Footballer of the Year polls, will be sorely felt by four-time champions Cameroon in a top-of-the-table Group 5 clash with Equatorial Guinea.

Tunisia coach Roger Lemerre from France has provoked a heated response having rung the changes for a fixture at home to Sudan.

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