Preview: South Africa – Senegal

Bafana Bafana were unfortunate to lose against Algeria in their opener and will be keen to avoid a potential early exit if they slip up against Alain Giresse’s men

Thuso Phala is hoping he and his South Africa team-mates can run rings around Senegal when the two teams face off in the Africa Cup of Nations on Friday.

Bafana Bafana face an uphill battle to qualify for the knockout stages after slipping to a somewhat unfortunate 3-1 defeat against Algeria in their opening Group C match.

Midfielder Phala opened the scoring in that fixture and South Africa appeared set to kick on thereafter.

However, Algeria came roaring back after surviving a major scare when Tokelo Rantie hit the crossbar with a 55th-minute penalty.

Senegal, 2-1 winners over Ghana in the first round of matches, can be expected to pose a stiff physical test for Ephraim Mashaba’s men at Estadio de Mongomo.

Yet Phala remains confident South Africa can secure a much-needed victory, highlighting their pace and athleticism as key attributes.

“Senegal’s physical aspect is always a disadvantage for us South African players, but I think we have a way of playing around them as we are quicker, we have the agility and that is an advantage on our side,” said Phala.

South Africa coach Mashaba is also staying optimistic, despite acknowledging the challenge that Bafana Bafana face in attempting to qualify for the last eight.

“We have a mountain to climb but we are still confident that we will do well in our next match,” he explained.

Stoke City striker Mame Biram Diouf scored an equalising goal and set up Moussa Sow’s injury-time winner as Senegal came from behind to beat Ghana on Monday.

That victory extended Senegal’s winning streak to five matches and they have yet to lose to South Africa in an international fixture. Nevertheless, coach Alain Giresse is wary of the threat South Africa pose.

“They are a top team that have great offensive potential and an ability to play in small spaces,” said the former France international. “In the spaces they can make individual raids. They can develop on the sides and end up in the centre of the goal.”

The last meeting between Senegal and South Africa, a friendly that took place in Durban in February 2012, finished goalless.

Victory on this occasion would be enough to secure Senegal’s progression to the quarter-finals providing Algeria avoid defeat against Ghana in Friday’s first match.