Libya, South Africa in Battle Royale

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South Africa head to Tunisia to face Libya needing to avoid defeat to book a place in this year’s African Cup of Nations. For Libya to secure a place in this year’s continental tournament, they need nothing short of a victory in a home game they will play on foreign soil due to political unrest.

The Libyans would have loved to play such a crucial match in their own backyard but they must be accustomed to staging international tournaments in their neighbouring countries since they were banned from hosting them in 2011. The authorities have made traveling arrangements for 3000 fans with Tunisia open to allowing up to 10 000 Libyans to attend the match.

The Mediterranean Knights currently lie third in Group E standings and they’re two points behind their opponents which means they need a victory to leapfrog them into second place and qualify for this year’s AFCON. Newly-appointed coach Fawzi Al-Essawi humiliated Seychelles 8-1 in his first qualifier in charge of the side.

The Libyan Football Federation has recently parted ways with Jamal Jafari who was its President after a vote of no confidence against him with Vice President Abdulhakim Al-Shalmani taking up the role in the interim.

Bafana Bafana had no answers to Libya’s resolute defence when they met at Moses Mabhida last year in a match that ended goalless. Stuart Baxter’s men have won two and drawn three of their five games so far, conceding only one goal in the process. Their most disappointing result was the goalless draw at Seychelles after smashing them 6-0 in Johannesburg.

Darren Keet or Ronwen Williams will start in goals in the absence of Itumeleng Khune and I think either of the two goalkeepers will be good enough to compete at this level.

It should be interesting to see whether Keagan Dolly and Bongani Zungu start as they face late fitness tests. Up front, the team has Percy Tau, Lebogang Maboe, Thembinkosi Lorch and Lebo Mothiba who are doing superbly for their respective clubs at the moment.

Bafana Bafana travelled to Tunisia this past weekend to allow the squad ample time to acclimatise. The officials must be applauded for carefully co-ordinating this gruelling 21-hour trip via Frankfurt, Germany. In terms of FIFA rankings, South Africa are 71st while Libya are 105th.