Morocco wary of Bafana Bafana threat

Morocco coach Herve Renard is anticipating a “tough game” against South Africa today at the Africa Cup of Nations football finals in Egypt despite the contrasting fortunes of the teams.

The match kicks-off at 6pm.

While Morocco were deserved 1-0 winners over the Cote d’lvoire in Group D — considered the hardest of the six — South Africa were lucky to lose only 1-0 to the west Africans.

“South Africa have a lot of very good players,” said Renard, the only coach to win the African title with two countries. “They also have a good coach in Stuart Baxter so it will be a tough game.”

Although Morocco won by only one-goal margins against Namibia and the Cote d’lvoire, they have exhibited class and appear to be keeping plenty in reserve for the knockout phase.

The goal that sunk the Ivorians demonstrated why the Atlas Lions are considered one of the biggest threats to hosts and bookmakers’ favourites Egypt.

Nordin Amrabat displayed dribbling skills rarely seen in this tournament and his clever pass freed scorer Youssef En-Nesyri, who had timed his dart forward perfectly.

South Africa have been poor both when losing to the Cote d’lvoire and scraping a win over Namibia with Baxter lamenting the “slowness of transitions from defence to attack”.

The other Group D match today will feature Cote d’lvoire and Namibia.

After outplaying South Africa, the Ivorians came off second best against Morocco, but should recover to defeat spirited but limited Namibia and secure a last-16 place.

It will concern coach Ibrahim Kamara, though, that with so many talented forwards like Nicolas Pepe at his disposal the Elephants have managed just one goal in 180 minutes.

Against South Africa, Kamara could afford the luxury of keeping Crystal Palace flier Wilfried Zaha on the bench until late in the second half.

Namibia are craving a first Cup of Nations win after eight failed attempts, including a 4-3 loss to the Cote d’lvoire in Burkina Faso 21 years ago.

Meanwhile, happy Algeria face depressed Tanzania in a Group C match the north Africans will expect to win and maintain a perfect record at the tournament.

Coach Djamel Belmadi has been hailed after victories over Kenya and Senegal, whose line-up included Liverpool star Sadio Mane and Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly.

“Our preparations included time in Qatar getting used to intense heat,” said veteran midfielder Sofiane Feghouli, referring to temperatures that have reached 38 celsius (100 Fahrenheit) in Egypt.

Tanzania were the first country to be eliminated after losses to Senegal and Kenya and coach Emmanuel Amunike admitted that “we lack experience and there is no character in the team”.

And Senegal coach and former star Aliou Cisse is expecting a big improvement from Mane and his teammates against Kenya after they were outfought by Algeria.

Coach Aliou Cisse believes Senegal will back up their status as the continent’s top-ranked side after a stuttering start to their bid for a first Africa Cup of Nations title.

Senegal began their campaign in Egypt with an easy 2-0 win over Tanzania but were far from their best in a 1-0 loss to Group C rivals Algeria.

A draw against Kenya in their final match in Cairo would send the Teranga Lions through to the last 16 where they would face the runners-up from Egypt’s group, in which all four teams are in still contention.

“I’m not the type to call everything into question in four days, I’m someone who is very balanced. There are things which haven’t worked but that’s no reason to start a revolution in the space of four days,” Cisse told reporters yesterday.

“We’ve been No. 1 in Africa for three years and we went to the 2018 World Cup. It’s our first defeat in four years on the continental stage. I don’t think a team that lacked mental strength would have achieved such a run.”

Cisse, the captain of the side that lost the 2002 final to Cameroon on penalties, snapped back at comments from Kenya coach Sebastien Migne suggesting Senegal had a tradition of buckling under pressure when the stakes are high.

“I think my counterparts have a tendency to speak about us. Take care of themselves, take care of their own teams. What does he know about the Senegalese mentality? What does he know about our people? How can he say we don’t have the mental strength?” Cisse countered.

He also slammed the performance of Zambian referee Janny Sikazwe in the wake of the Algeria defeat, in which Sadio Mane had a strong penalty appeal dismissed.

“I don’t want to come back to the refereeing which I found, today I will say it, really catastrophic and

unacceptable,” said Cisse. “There are things I don’t want to say about the refereeing because I would be suspended, but there comes a point when you have to protect the integrity of our players.”

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