Four matches to watch this weekend

Bafana Bafana
Bafana Bafana team used to illustrate the story. [Photo credit: Soccer Laduma]

Algeria v Nigeria @Stade Mohamed-Hamlaoui @8:30pm on Nov 10

The Super Eagles are already looking for camp sites for Russia 2018 and Gernot Rohr has the chance to see some fringe players in competitive action as he continues to ponder on the 23 players to board that Russia-bound plane.

For Algeria, this qualifying series has been an unmitigated disaster. Ranked the No.1 team in Africa at the start of the qualifiers, the Algerians are now 13th on the FIFA ranking. The Eagles will also be trying to extend their unbeaten streak in the qualifiers that now stands at 34.

The Super Eagles last lost a World Cup qualifier in 2004 to Angola. That 1-0 defeat came back to bite the Eagles as they finally lost their place in the 2006 World Cup roster on the head-to-head rule against the Angolans.

Current Form: Algeria [L-L-L-D-L]; Nigeria [W-D-W-W-L]

Head to head

Sat 12/11/16 WQA Nigeria 3 – 1 Algeria
Sat 30/01/10 ACO Nigeria 1 – 0 Algeria
Sat 03/09/05 WQA Algeria 2 – 5 Nigeria
Fri 02/07/04 WQA Nigeria 1 – 0 Algeria
Mon 21/01/02 ACO Algeria 0 – 1 Nigeria

Prediction: Algeria 1-3 Nigeria

CIV v Morocco @Stade Houphouet-Boigny @6:30pm on Nov 10

The common narrative is Herve Renaud, former manager of the Elephants, who now seeks to lead the Atlas Lions back to the World Cup after a 16-year absence.

For Cote d’Ivoire, it is crunch time for former Belgium manager; Marc Wilmots who needs to convince he is a good manager by leading the Elephants to their fourth consecutive World Cup. Games between these two countries have historically been very tight affairs and Friday’s encounter shouldn’t be any different but the Elephants are devoid of attacking superstars with Wilfred Bony not playing regularly and a lot would depend on the form of Wilfred Zaha.

Khalid Boutaib should lead the Moroccan attack, complemented in midfield by Hakim Ziyech, Younes Belhanda, and the enigmatic Sofiane Boufal. Their defence would be anchored on the big game experience of the captain, Mehdi Benatia. This is a pressure cooker game and as Wilmots said on Tuesday. “The pressure is on both teams because both can qualify.” It is definitely a winner takes all situation!

Current Form: Cote d’Ivoire [D-L-W-W-L]; Morocco [W-W-D-W-W]

Head to head

Tue 24/01/17 ACO Morocco 1 – 0 Cote d’Ivoire
Sat 12/11/16 WQA Morocco 0 – 0 Cote d’Ivoire
Wed 20/01/16 ANC Morocco 0 – 1 Cote d’Ivoire
Fri 09/10/15 FRI Morocco 0 – 1 Cote d’Ivoire
Sat 07/09/13 WQA Cote d’Ivoire 1 – 1 Morocco

Prediction: Cote d’Ivoire 1-1 Morocco

South Africa v Senegal @Peter Mokaba Stadium @6pm on Nov 10

All the Teranga Lions need in their last two matches against South Africa in Group D is at least two points while Bafana Bafana seek a miracle. That would have to be achieved without the injured Andile Jali and maybe Itumeleng Khune, who may need a mask if he is to feature at all.

The Lions have not really convinced throughout the qualifiers even though they boast the likes of Sadio Mane and Keita Balde in attack plus Napoli strongman, Kalidou Koulibaly.

They could be said to have been lucky with the 2-0 away victory to Cape Verde in their last match but they have their own destiny in their own hands as it stands. Stuart Baxter knows Bafana have to take it one step at a time – beat Senegal on Friday and confidence for the next match will intensify and galvanise preparations.

And if the Bafana Bafana players were not motivated enough by the prospect of making it to Russia, authorities, SAFA have promised each player R60 000 for a win over the Lions. It looks like nothing will be decided for sure on Friday!

November 14: Senegal v South Africa

Current Form: South Africa [W-L-L-L-D]; Senegal [W-D-D-L-W]

Head to head

08/09/15 FRI South Africa 1 – 0 Senegal
23/01/15 ACO South Africa 1 – 1 Senegal
29/02/12 FRI South Africa 0 – 0 Senegal
31/01/08 ACO Senegal 1 – 1 South Africa
12/11/05 FRI South Africa 2 – 3 Senegal

Prediction: South Africa 2-1 Senegal

Sweden v Italy @Friends Arena @8:45pm on Nov 10

Can Italy, four-time World Cup winners, miss the 2018 World Cup? In football, anything is possible within the allotted 90 minutes. The Azzurri are coming up against a technically functional Swedish team that will grab any chance they are given. The Swedes boast the record of being the highest goal scorers during the qualifiers as they scored eight in one match against Luxembourg.

The Azzurri boast two in-form strikers in Ciro Immobile and Andre Belotti and the duo will definitely cause problems for Victor Lindelof and Andreas Granqvist, the likeliest pairing in central defense for Sweden.

Italy’s manager, Giampiero Ventura is under pressure with history casting a long shadow as Sweden famously stopped Italy from qualifying for Euro 2004. The tie will not be won on Friday, with the return leg on Monday but over the course of the two matches, the four-time world champions should have more than enough to get through the Swedes to Russia.

Current Form: Sweden [L-W-W-L-D]; Italy [W-D-W-L-W]

Head to head

Fri 17/06/16 EUC Italy 1 – 0 Sweden
Wed 18/11/09 FRI Italy 1 – 0 Sweden
Fri 18/06/04 EUC Italy 1 – 1 Sweden
Mon 19/06/00 EUC Italy 2 – 1 Sweden
Wed 23/02/00 FRI Italy 1 – 0 Sweden

Prediction: Sweden 1-2 Italy

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