It boils down to winner-takes-all for Bafana and Ba-Ghana

It boils down to winner-takes-all for Bafana and Ba-Ghana

By Andile Dladla

It all boils down to this weekend’s final 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers with South Africa facing two crunch matches against Zimbabwe at home on Thursday and Ghana in the Cape Coast on Sunday.

There had been acrimony, accusations and all the gamesmanship involved in a clash of this magnitude as South Africa leads Ghana with a single point going into this weekend’s matches and both countries know there cannot afford a tiny margin of error.

Ghana were the first to fire a salvo in an attempt to unsettle South Africa by accusing Ethiopia of not adhering to the spirit of fair play. The Ethiopians have been barred from playing their match against Ghana at home and so, the East Africans elected to play their opponents in South Africa.

This elicited howls of protest from the Ghanaians who suspects foul play and claimed there appears to be a conspiracy by Ethiopia and South Africa with subtle hints that the spirit of fair play went out of the window the minute Ethiopia brought their match in Mzansi.

They even lodged a protest with both CAF and FIFA, imploring both organizations to declare Ethiopia to have forfeited the game which they suggested should instead be played in Ghana. But FIFA turned down their plea and ruled that Ethiopia had the right to choose where they wanted to play their matches.

SA coach Hugo Broos upped the ante when he started his own mind games by implying that Ghana has been given an advantage by Ethiopia who brought their game at Orlando Stadium, a world class facility that would suit the Ghanaians more than had they played in Ethiopia.

But after the dust has settled, South Africa Broos has been left with no option but to withdraw some of his troops for the battle that lie ahead following injuries and suspensions to some of the players that have carried the country to the summit of Group G.

Sifiso Hlanti is one of the players that have been withdrawn due to a hamstring and according to Broos, the player will be side-lined at least for the next six months while Sekhukhune United’s midfielder Yusuf Maart has also withdrawn and would be replaced by SuperSport United’s Jesse Donn.

“We are almost at the final end of the qualifiers and there is no looking back,” said Broos. “The last two camps for the back-to-back matches against Ethiopia were successful as it allowed us an opportunity to get to know each other better.

“But in football, you are only as good as you last match. We must forget the last results and focus on these last two upcoming matches. If we win twice against both Zimbabwe and Ghana, then we are in the next round.

“It’s very simple to say it (to win) but not so easy to do it. For us the most important thing is to win against Zimbabwe first and if we don’t win okay we can be one or two points behind but that is not the ideal situation that we would like.

“I would much prefer that we go for all three points. There are some players within our opponent’s camps that have not been selected by their coach and he has given others a chance to prove themselves so they can be very dangerous for us.”

Broos predicts that Ghana is going to be a very different proposition altogether and the match against them would be like a cup final as it would come down to who wants it the most or as some would like to describe it – winner takes all!

“But the boys are ready and have gained dollops of confidence since the qualifiers got underway. Travelling would be long but if we want to progress to the next and final round then we have to be professional and do the job.

“The reason why Keegan Dolly is here is because he is playing well at the moment and with the quality that he has we hope he can help us achieve our objectives because he can score and can give an accurate final pass.”

Broos is anticipating a physical and bruising fight in Cape Coast and perhaps that could explain the reason why he has brought along physically imposing defensive midfielder Sphelele Sithole who is known in football circles as “Yaya.”

South Africa has played both countries in the first round, sharing the spoils against Zimbabwe in Harare but edging out Ghana at FNB Stadium and it all comes down to the team going to Ghana and grinding out the result by collectively putting their shoulders to the wheel.

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