Friday Nov 17, 2023. 13:00
South Africa and Benin will have a key World Cup Qualifying clash in their Group C opener, set for the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday afternoon.
South Africa have not appeared at the World Cup since hosting the tournament in 2010, and last secured ‘proper’ qualification way back for the 2002 edition, but will enter this campaign with confidence after successfully securing a spot at next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), and recent impressive results such as defeating DR Congo 1-0 and holding Ivory Coast 1-1 (in friendlies in the past two months).
Hugo Broos, who has had to deal with several notable absentees (most notably Premier League striker Lyle Foster), is hoping to see strong support for his team in Durban.
“But I’m more happy when there’s a crowd. That was not the case in all the games we played in Johannesburg, except the game against Morocco. For the rest we didn’t play in packed stadiums,” noted the Belgian.
“We played a few games in Mbombela and there were a few people, but it’s far away from here and it’s not easy to reach. But I’m happy with Durban and I hope the crowd will be there because we need them.”
Benin, who have never appeared at the World Cup and have missed out on qualification for the next edition of the AFCON, will come into the match on the back of a 1-1 draw with Sierra Leone and 2-1 defeat at the hands of Madagascar in friendlies played in October.
The Cheetahs are coached by German Gernot Rohr, who is best remembered for his spell in charge of Nigeria from 2016 to 2021, which included a successful qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Rohr is wary of the “new spirit” shown by South Africa: “We’re also going to meet three southern African teams, who are geographically close, as there’s also South Africa in this Group C. They’ve qualified quickly for the African Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast and have a new spirit.”
In head-to-head terms, South Africa and Benin have met in just one previous match: a 2004 Africa Cup of Nations group stage match in Sfax, Tunisia, which Bafana won 2-0 thanks to a second-half brace from Siyabonga Nomvethe.