Hosts South Africa enter Cosafa Cup quarterfinals

Hosts South Africa enter Cosafa Cup quarterfinals
Judas Moseamedi of South Africa challenged by Wangu Gome of Namibia during 2017 Cosafa Castle Cup match between South Africa and Namibia at Moruleng Stadium in Rustenburg on 07 July 2017 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

by Graeme Jackson

Friday Jun 01, 2018. 08:01

Hosts South Africa will mark their entry into the 2018 Cosafa Cup when they take on Group A winners Madagascar in the third quarterfinal, set for Sunday 3 June at the Peter Mokaba Stadium. Kick-off is at 15h00 CAT.

South African, along with Zambia, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, were seeded for the competition and have been biding their time patiently while the first round was completed this past week.

Bafana Bafana, who are four-time champions of the Cosafa Cup, will be looking for much improved performance compared to 2017, where they suffered a 1-0 loss to guest side Tanzania in the quarterfinals before consoling themselves with victory in the Plate competition.

Coach Stuart Baxter has selected an experimental squad for the tournament which features little international experience, though captain Siyanda Xulu – who enjoyed a wonderful season with Maritzburg United – is a figurehead that the younger players can look to for inspiration and leadership.

Baxter insists that players who perform strongly in the Cosafa Cup will be considered for higher profile matches, such as when the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign resumes in September this year.

“It was the same in Zambia [during the Four Nations tournament]. Some of the players that we took there did exactly that; they put their hands up and said 'hey, don’t throw me back in the pool. I could be around for a while',” Baxter explained.

“This is going to be exactly the same. It would have been fantastic if we had a get together or a friendly with the squad that’s going to play in the AFCON qualifiers because I won’t have had them together since the Senegal match.

“But in lieu of not having that, this is the best thing we could be doing. And then hopefully some of these players here will enhance the AFCON squad.”

He added, “I think that it’s an interesting squad, if we get some work done we will do well. We’ll probably play Zambia or Zimbabwe.

“These teams have strong squads. If we can match them with the squad that we have, that augurs well for South Africa.”

Madagascar, meanwhile, emerged as the top team in Group A, thanks in the main to a 2-1 victory over Mozambique in their opening game last Sunday. Barea went on to draw 1-1 with Seychelles on Tuesday (in a game where they were reduced to 10 men), before sealing top spot on Thursday with a 1-0 win over Comoros.

In head-to-head statistics, South Africa and Madagascar have met in five previous matches according to FIFA’s database. Bafana Bafana have claimed four wins, while one game has been drawn. The teams’ last meeting was in Kimberley in September 2009, with South Africa winning a friendly 1-0.

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