South Africa will look for an upset win over 2019 Africa Cup of Nations hosts Egypt when the teams meet in a round of 16 clash at the Cairo International Stadium on Saturday 6 July, kick-off at 21:00 CAT.
Egypt enjoyed a perfect record in Group A of the competition, racking up three successive wins over Zimbabwe, DR Congo and Uganda to top the standings – and without conceding a single goal in the process.
Yet there is a sense that we have yet to see the best of coach Javier Aguirre’s team. The brilliance of world-class forward Mohamed Salah has been on show, but the technical and tactical dominance which has characterised great Pharaohs teams of the past has yet to fully surface.
The North Africans will hope that the challenge of knockout football forces their players to raise the level of performance and breed belief that a record-extending eighth Nations Cup title is on its way.
Their opponents are lucky to have even qualified for the round of 16. South Africa finished third in Group D behind Morocco and Ivory Coast and their record was only just good enough to earn a spot as one of the four ‘lucky losers’ to advance into the knockout phase.
Bafana Bafana will need to take a massive step forward in their game if they are to offer a challenge to Egypt, and coach Stuart Baxter will need to take a more proactive tactical approach than was seen in the meek 1-0 loss to Morocco earlier in the week.
SA have the potential to upset the host nation, especially if they can get the mercurial Percy Tau running at Egypt’s defence, but dominating the midfield and keeping an eye on Salah at the other end will be major stumbling blocks to their hopes.
In head-to-head stats, Egypt and SA have met in 11 previous matches. Bafana have claimed six wins compared to the Pharaohs’ four, while one game has been drawn. The teams’ most recent meeting was an international friendly in Johannesburg in September 2016 which the hosts won 1-0.