South Africa head coach Shakes Mashaba has made it clear to his players there is no room for error as they prepare to face Angola in World Cup 2018 qualification.
There are 40 African teams left in the bid to make it to Russia and only 20 will remain after each nation has participated in a two-legged playoff during the international break, with the winners progressing to the final group stage.
South Africa have been handed one of the tougher draws, with Angola – who are at home for Friday’s first leg – having qualified for the World Cup in 2006.
Mashaba’s first-choice goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune is ruled out with a knee injury in the crucial double-header, but a quartet of players, including centre-half Eric Matoho, who are carrying knocks are expected to be fit..
“Angola have quick, strong and skilful players in the middle of the park,” said Mashaba. “We should not give them space or allow them to shoot and need to defend smartly.
“We are playing crucial World Cup qualifiers and they all are aware there is a lot at stake. I believe we have a team to give us positive results; we have no doubt there. We cannot afford to slip up.
“There is no need to panic with Khune not available. The truth is he has been doing well for us since he came in but he is not here and I believe any of the three goalkeepers that we have will step up to the plate.”
South Africa came out victorious when the sides met in a friendly in June, but have struggled in recent competitive matches.
Mashaba’s men suffered a shock 3-1 defeat to Mauritania in September in qualification for the African Cup of Nations to leave them on one point from two games. Angola, meanwhile, are top of their AFCON qualifying group with four points out of a possible six.
The Bafana Bafana coach, however, believes any critics of South Africa’s form are not looking at the full picture.
He added: “Let me make you aware of our record. We have played 25 games. Do you know how many we have won?
“We lost seven and we drew four. And the rest is what we have won. Tell me if that is a record that will make you doubt if this team is doing well.”
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