- Liverpool owner John W Henry ‘to sign’ Arsenal target Marco Reus
- Photo: Arsenal club-record signing Mesut Özil chills with Drake
- Man Utd transfers: ‘Cristiano Ronaldo keen on Old Trafford return’
- Tottenham transfers: Gareth Bale open to Spurs return
- Mesut Özil made a mistake joining Arsenal, says ex-Chelsea star
- Hugo Lloris hails Federico Fazio’s ‘comfortable’ Tottenham debut
Africa Cup of Nations 2013: Mali’s Keita can spoil South Africa’s party
Africa Cup of Nations 2013: Ed Owen looks at Bafana Bafana's current team compared to the triumphant class of '96
It’s safe to say that last time South Africa faced an Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final on home soil, they were in a far more confident mood.
Confronted with a powerhouse Malian side at Durban’s Moses Mabhida stadium, Bafana Bafana will undoubtedly hope that the spirit of 1996 will guide them through.
Yet to match the class of ’96 seems a far-fetched dream for a side which has so far failed to stoke the passions of the Rainbow Nation.
Matched against Group A minnows Cape Verde in the tournament opener, many South Africans hoped this would be the perfect showcase to show off their country’s distinctive high-tempo game.
Yet instead, they found themselves confronted by an unimaginative style of play – lacking creative fulcrum Steven Pienaar, Gordon Igesund’s men resorted to dull, long-ball tactics.
And although a 2-0 win against Morocco might have done much to salve the wounds caused by the Blue Sharks, there is definitely something of a cloud hanging over the side.
Traditionally, the South Africans rely on controlling the midfield through superior technique to win their matches, but up against top players like Seydou Keita, they might struggle.
Coupled with the fact that the hosts’ flair players – such as Thuso Phala – have failed to fire, any mistakes or primitive tactics will likely be repaid with interest by the Eagles.
Given the circumstances which surround the West African nation – last month’s coup d’etat sparked previous manager Alain Giresse’s resignation – even a quarter-final place might be seen as a victory.
However, this Mali side could never be considered tournament also-rans – having finished third in 2012, they will have designs on snatching the trophy for the first time.
And in light of recent performances, the stuttering hosts were probably one of the best draws the 1972 runner-ups could have hoped for.
Powered on by former Barcelona man Keita, this Malian side is full of young talent plying their trade in Europe.
Possessing players such as Fiorentina’s Momo Sissoko and West Ham’s Modibo Maiga, this is the nation’s most exciting squad for years and they will want to make their mark in the competition.
Yet the star of the show is clearly Keita – considering the Chinese League wrapped up in November, his match-saving performances have been nothing short of remarkable.
And faced with a side lacking leadership since Pienaar’s international retirement, Mali’s talisman might fancy his chances of breaking his nation’s tournament duck.◀ The Sport Review homepageNext story ►
Join us on Facebook
Read more on...
Photos: Jose Enrique catches out dozy Liverpool stars on trip to West Ham1 hour ago Football
Man Utd boss plays down Radamel Falcao-Robin van Persie headache3 hours ago Football
Man Utd transfers: Louis van Gaal confirms Cristiano Ronaldo interest3 hours ago Football
Photos: Radamel Falcao aims to impress Man Utd boss Louis van Gaal3 hours ago Football
Photo: Aaron Ramsey vows Arsenal will ‘bounce back quickly’ at Aston Villa3 hours ago Football
Photo: De Gea and Di Maria enjoy ‘funny moment’ in Man Utd training3 hours ago Football
Photos: Under-fire Mesut Özil gears up for Arsenal’s trip to Aston Villa4 hours ago Football
Fantasy Football: Di Maria, Lamela & more – This weekend’s best picks4 hours ago Football
Photo: Liverpool’s Jose Enrique and Suso ‘ready’ for West Ham trip5 hours ago Football
Photo: Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain & Danny Welbeck play ‘guitar’5 hours ago Football
Pellegrini gives latest Man City injury update ahead of Chelsea’s visit6 hours ago Football
More to Chelsea than Diego Costa, warns Man City’s Manuel Pellegrini6 hours ago Football
Photo: Lukas Podolski poses with Arsenal legend Robert Pires6 hours ago Football
Photos: Mesut Özil all smiles as Arsenal train ahead of Villa trip6 hours ago Football
Three reasons why Tottenham can finish in the top four this season7 hours ago Football
José Mourinho expected Cesc Fàbregas to seamlessly slot into Chelsea side8 hours ago Football
Mourinho delivers latest Chelsea injury update ahead of Man City clash8 hours ago Football
Mesut Özil ‘wasted’ on the wing at Arsenal, warns Paul Scholes8 hours ago Football
Hugo Lloris hails Federico Fazio’s ‘comfortable’ Tottenham debut8 hours ago Football
Tottenham transfers: Gareth Bale open to Spurs return9 hours ago Football