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Wits, Celtic battle for Telkom Knockout crown


Gabadinho Mhango of Bidvest Wits evades tackle from Mpho Matsi of Cape Town City during the 2017 MTN8 semifinal football match between Bidvest Wits and Cape Town City at Bidvest Stadium, Johannesburg on 10 September 2017 ©Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

by
Staff Reporter

Friday Dec 01, 2017. 08:30


Bidvest Wits and Bloemfontein Celtic will battle for the right to be crowned 2017 Telkom Knockout champions when they meet in the final at Princess Magogo Stadium on 2 December 2017, kick-off at 18h00.

Wits have progressed into their first League Cup final since 2011 after overcoming Free State Stars, Baroka FC and Kaizer Chiefs in the first three rounds of the competition. The Johannesburg side is looking to win a third League Cup title to add to trophies won in 1985 and 1995.

Celtic, who won their only Telkom Knockout title in 2012, have advanced into the final thanks to victories over SuperSport United, Platinum Stars and Polokwane City – the first and third matches were decided by post-match penalties.

This TKO final will be the 11th cup meeting of Wits and Celtic since 1985. The first 10 have been dominated by the Clever Boys, who claimed eight outright wins (plus one via penalties) and suffered just one defeat. The teams’ last knockout clash was in the first round of the 2016 Nedbank Cup, with the Johannesburg side winning 1-0 at home thanks to a goal from striker James Keene.

Overall, the teams have met in 66 matches across all competitions. Wits have claimed 31 victories compared to 19 for Celtic, while 16 matches have been drawn. Their latest meeting was a league clash in early October which saw Phunya Sele Sele triumph 1-0 at home thanks to a goal from Roggert Nyundu.

The teams come into the final having been in league action this past weekend, with Wits having played out a goalless draw away to Maritzburg United, while Celtic suffered a 1-0 loss at home to Orlando Pirates.

The teams have played the same number of league matches and have seven points and eight places separating them: Phunya Sele Sele are eighth on 16 points, while the Clever Boys are last (16th) with nine points.



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PLAYR SPOTLIGHT: Cedric Bakambu – English clubs to battle for Congolese striker – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers – Africa


by
Austin Ditlhobolo

Monday Nov 20, 2017. 16:00


The prolific marksman has a good season thus far in the colours of his Spanish club Villarreal, who are punishing for a top four finish in the La Liga.

Bakambu, 26, has found the back of the net eight times in 11 La Liga games and he’s among the top goalscorers in the league.

Only FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (12) and Valencia forward Simone Zaza (9) have scored more La Liga goals than the DR Congolese international this season.

Bakambu’s exploits for the Yellow Submarine have not gone unnoticed according to latest reports coming out of Spain.

Spanish media outlet Marca have reported that West Ham United are one of a number of English Premier League clubs interested in signing in-form Bakambu during the January transfer window.

Marca says that the Hammers made an offer for the frontman in the summer, but were unable to match the price tag put on the centre-forward’s head.

The London-based outfit are now ready to revive their interest in Bakambu, who was a key player for DR Congo during their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign.

The report adds that the Hammers’ English top flight rivals West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United are also keeping tabs on the France-born player.

It remains to be seen whether Villarreal will agree to sell one of their most prized assets midway through the current 2017/18 campaign.



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City, Celtic battle for TKO final berth


Mpho Makola of Orlando Pirates challenged by Lorence Vilakazi of Polokwane City during the 2017 Telkom Knockout football match between Orlando Pirates and Polokwane City at Orlando Stadium, Johannesburg on 04 November 2017 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

by
Graeme Jackson

Friday Nov 17, 2017. 11:17


Polokwane City and Bloemfontein Celtic will battle for a place in the final of the Telkom Knockout when they meet at Old Peter Mokaba Stadium on 19 November 2017, kick-off at 15h30.

Polokwane earned their place in the semifinals by defeating both Ajax Cape Town and Orlando Pirates on penalties, having held their opponents 0-0 and 2-2 respectively. Rise and Shine have never progressed this far in a cup competition since their promotion to the top flight in 2013 and will be looking for a first-ever final appearance.

Celtic, meanwhile, overcame SuperSport United on penalties (after a 2-2 draw) and beat Platinum Stars 2-1 in the last 16 and quarterfinals respectively. Phunya Sele Sele famously won their only Telkom Knockout title in 2012, and will feel they have a great chance of challenging for another this year.

City and Celtic have never met in a cup competition before, but they have crossed swords in nine league matches since the Limpopo side have been in the top flight. Those nine matches have produced five wins for Phunya Sele Sele, two for Rise and Shine and two draws.

The teams met at recently as September in a league clash, with Celtic claiming a 2-1 win in Polokwane thanks to a brace from Ndumiso Mabena. Phunya Sele Sele are unbeaten in their last four matches against Rise and Shine.

The winners of this match will go on to face either Bidvest Wits or Kaizer Chiefs – who meet at Bidvest Stadium Stadium on Saturday, 18 November – in the final next month.



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TP Mazembe, SuperSport battle for first-leg advantage – 2017 CAF Confederation Cup


Club Africain player Oussama Darragi (R) fights for the ball with Supersport United FC player Reneilwe Letsholonyane (L) during the semi-final return 2017 CAF Confederations Cup game between Club Africain and Supersport United FC in Tunis, Tunisia on 22 October 2017 © BackpagePix

by
Graeme Jackson

Tuesday Nov 14, 2017. 17:30


TP Mazembe and SuperSport United will battle to take a first-leg advantage when they meet in the final of the CAF Confederation Cup this weekend. The match is set for the Stade TP Mazembe in Lubumbashi on Sunday 19 November, kick-off at 15h30 CAT.

Mazembe, the reigning Confed Cup champions, earned the right to defend their title by finishing top of Group D before defeating Al-Hilal Al-Ubayyid (7-1 on aggregate) and FUS Rabat (1-0 on aggregate) in the quarter- and semifinals respectively.

SuperSport, who are appearing in their first continental competition final, finished second in Group D before overcoming Zesco United (on away goals after a 2-2 aggregate draw) and Club Africain (4-2 on aggregate) in the quarter- and semifinals respectively.

The teams met twice in the group stage back in June, drawing 2-2 in Lubumbashi and 0-0 in the return game in Tshwane.

Mazembe have enjoyed intensive preparations for the Confed Cup final, first undergoing a training camp in Morocco where they played several friendlies, before defeating Ecofoot Katumbi 2-0 in their 2017/18 domestic league opener on Monday.

Club president Moise Katumbi has called on TPM fans to fill the stadium and give the Ravens huge support ahead of their clash against United.

“This season, despite the elimination in the Champions League, the club has been performing and the players have invested to reach the final of the CAF [Confederation] Cup. They deserve a really full stadium for this very important final, which is important to win at home,” Katumbi is quoted by the club’s website.

“I know that the supporters of the TPM are always able to mobilise to take their team to success. It is with the support of a large audience that our players will pull a lot of strength from the stands to defeat SuperSport. The players are waiting for everyone to show a sacred union around the team to win.”

SuperSport’s preparations have been hit by an extended absence for their Bafana Bafana players – Ronwen Williams, Clayton Daniels, Dean Furman, Bradley Grobler and Morgan Gould – who were part of the national team’s trip to Dakar for their final 2018 World Cup qualifier on Tuesday night.

Matsatsantsa midfielder Aubrey Modiba, who scored against TP Mazembe in the 2-2 draw five months ago, is looking forward to the battle.

“I have not missed a game in the Confed Cup. I am only one who has played every game and I am happy. It shows that there is something I am doing right,” Modiba told KickOff.

“I just have to keep performing consistently. Credit to the coaches for giving me the opportunity. My family has also been supporting me. It’s not only about me, but about the team as well.”

Modiba added, “We know about them. It’s not like we don’t know what to expect. They are a good side and it will be tough. It will be a different ball game because it’s a final. Everyone will want to perform.

“I was happy to score against Mazembe. It’s a big team on the continent. Not everyone gets to score in Lubumbashi.”

The match in Lubumbashi this weekend will be handled by Algerian referee Mehdi Abid Cherif. The return leg is set for the Lucas Moripe Stadium on November 25.



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Chippa, ‘Downs battle for TKO quarterfinal berth


Themba Zwane of Mamelodi Sundowns challenged by Siphiwe Tshabalala of Kaizer Chiefs during the Absa Premiership 2017/18 match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs at Loftus Versveld Stadium in Pretoria, South Africa on 17 October 2017 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

by
Graeme Jackson

Friday Oct 27, 2017. 12:45


Chippa United and Mamelodi Sundowns will battle for a place in the quarterfinals of the Telkom Knockout when they meet on 29 October 2017 at the Sisa Dukashe Stadium, kick-off at 15h30.

This will be the fourth cup meeting between Chippa and Sundowns and the second in the Telkom KO. Their very first cup meeting was in the last 16 round of this competition back in 2015/16, with the Tshwane side claiming a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Keagan Dolly and Hlompho Kekana.

They also met in the semifinals of last season’s MTN8, with the Brazilians claiming a narrow 1-0 aggregate victory over two legs thanks to a goal from Anthony Laffor.

Across all competitions, the Chilli Boys and ‘Downs have met in 11 matches since 2012/13 and it’s not good reading for the Eastern Cape side: they have yet to claim a single win in the rivalry, with the Brazilians recording six victories and five draws.

The teams last met in a league clash back in March 2017, with Chippa holding Sundowns to a goalless draw at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium. In fact, the teams drew three out of their four meetings last term, suggesting that this clash could be evenly contested.

Sundowns are three-time champions in the League Cup, with their most recent triumph arriving in 2015. Last year the Brazilians were beaten on penalties in the TKO quarterfinals by Tshwane derby rivals SuperSport United, who went on to be runners-up.

As for Chippa, they have participated in the TKO four times before but have never managed to progress past the last 16 stage. Last season they suffered a 2-0 loss away to newcomers Highlands Park in the first round.

In terms of current form, Chippa followed a goalless draw against Maritzburg United with a 2-1 win over Cape Town City in their league matches this month, while Sundowns have suffered back-to-back losses at the hands of Kaizer Chiefs and AmaZulu.



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England, Spain battle for U-17 crown – 2017 FIFA U17 World Cup


England’s Rhian Brewster (L) celebrates after scoring the 3-1 lead during the FIFA Under-17 World Cup 2017 semi final match between Brazil and England at Salt Lake stadium in Calcutta, eastern India, 25 October 2017. England won 3-1. EPA/PIYAL ADHIKARY

by
Graeme Jackson

Thursday Oct 26, 2017. 18:30


England and Spain will battle for the right to be called U-17 World Cup winners when they meet in the final at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Saturday, kick-off at 16h30 CAT.

England’s path to the final has seen them top Group F ahead of Iraq, Mexico and Chile, before defeating Japan on penalties, United States 4-1 and Brazil 3-1 in the last 16, quarterfinals and semifinals respectively.

Steve Cooper’s Young Three Lions have been one of the best balanced teams at the tournament, scoring a total of 18 goals while conceding just four at the other end. In striker Rhian Brewster – who has netted successive hat-tricks in the last two rounds – they have the tournament’s leading scorer with seven strikes thus far.

“The players will be planned and prepared for it [the final],” said coach Cooper. “We’re really enjoying being out here and we have a great opportunity to make history, but we know the experience will serve us for the future as well.”

Spain, meanwhile, ousted one of the tournament favourites Mali in the semifinals, putting in a controlled performance to quell the Africans’ superior physicality and claim a 3-1 triumph.

La Rojita have lost just once in this tournament: a group stage defeat at the hands of Brazil – the same team England overcame in the semis.

Spain and England will be renewing their rivalry just over five months after they met in the final of the U-17 European Championships in Croatia. That match finished 2-2 before Spain won 4-1 on penalties.

“We do have to prepare. We know we have beaten them in the final of the Euro in Croatia,” said Spain coach Santiago Denia after the semifinal against Mali. “England has improved and we need to improve on things we did today.”

Both teams will be looking for their first-ever U-17 World Cup title. While this will be England’s first appearance in the championship match, Spain have appeared in three previous finals – 1991, 2003 and 2007 – all of which they lost.



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Al Ahly, Etoile battle for CAFCL final spot


Étoile Sportive du Sahel player (L) fights for the ball with Al Ahly Sporting Club player Oluwafemj Ajayi (R) during the African Champions League 2017 match between Tunisian Étoile Sportive du Sahel and Egyptian Al Ahly Sporting Club in Sousse, Tunisia on 01 October 2017 © BackpagePix

by
Bertin Basson

Thursday Oct 19, 2017. 17:00


Al Ahly and Étoile Sportive du Sahel will lock horns in a highly anticipated 2017 CAF Champions League semifinal second-leg showdown at the Borg-El Arab Stadium on Sunday evening.

Kick-off is at 19h00 CAT.

The Tunisians head to Alexandria in control following a 2-1 win in the reverse fixture earlier this month.

Alaya Brigui and Mohamed Amine Ben Amor with the goals for the hosts at the Stade Olympique de Sousse, but Saleh Gomaa’s away goal for the Egyptians could prove decisive.

Aggregate victory will secure Al Ahly’s place in the CAF CL final for an unprecedented 11th time – with the Egyptians having clinched Africa’s premier cup competition on eight previous occasions.

One of only two defeats in the showpiece came against Étoile 10 years ago. The Tunisians clinching a 3-1 win over their counterparts in Egypt, after the first leg in Sousse ended in a goalless stalemate.

Victory served as revenge for ESS, with the club having suffered defeat to their North African rivals in the 2005 final. Al Ahly claiming a 3-0 aggregate win to hold the crown aloft.

Al Ahly head coach Hossam el Badry is counting on the club’s loyal fan base to help the team across the line in Alexandria this weekend.

“I am sure fan support on Sunday will ease our mission to snatch the qualifying ticket,” El Badry told his club’s official website.

“The attendance of 50,000 fans – approved by security authorities – will definitely be a positive boost for the team to overcome the loss,” he concluded.

Victor Gomes of South Africa will officiate the encounter.

The winner will come up against either USM Alger or Wydad Casablanca in the 2017 CAFCL final. The first-leg in Algiers finished in a 0-0 draw.



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Sundowns, Chiefs set for heavyweight battle – ABSA Premiership 2017/18


Anthony Laffor of Mamelodi Sundowns challenged by Bernard Parker of Kaizer Chiefs during the Absa Premiership 2016/17 match between Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns at the FNB Stadium, South Africa on 01 April 2017 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

by
Graeme Jackson

Monday Oct 16, 2017. 14:30


Absa Premiership heavyweights Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs will do battle at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium on 17 October 2017, kick-off at 19h30.

Sundowns claimed a second successive win when they defeated Platinum Stars 1-0 away on October 1. The Tshwane side are placed in the upper reaches of the log despite playing just four matches – their schedule has been affected by their participation in the CAF Champions League, though they were knocked out of the competition last month.

The Brazilians’ only home game so far this season was a 2-1 loss at the hands of Polokwane City back in August and coach Pitso Mosimane will want his side to avoid a similar fate in this high-profile fixture.

Chiefs suffered their second league loss of the season when they were beaten 2-1 at home (in Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium) by league leaders Baroka FC. The Soweto giants had an early lead in the game, but let the chance to claim all three points slip through their fingers.

The Amakhosi have performed strongly away from home this season, claiming seven points from a possible nine on the road. Their last away match was an impressive 2-0 win at Maritzburg United back in September.

In head-to-head stats, Sundowns and Chiefs have met in 64 league matches since 1985. The Amakhosi have claimed 26 wins compared to 20 for the Brazilians, while 18 matches have been drawn. The Tshwane side has claimed 15 wins from their 32 home league matches against the Soweto giants, suffering nine defeats in the process.

Last season each side claimed a home victory over the other: ‘Downs won 2-1 in Tshwane in the first half of the campaign, while Chiefs claimed a victory by the same score in the return game in Soweto. The league meetings of these teams have produced a combined 131 goals down the years.

Sundowns’ line-up from their 1-0 win over Stars on October 1: Brimah, Arendse, Madisha, Morena, Langerman, Mabunda (Nthethe 68′), Kekana, Tau, Vilakazi (Malajila 61′), Zwane, Billiat (Ngcongca 86′).

Chiefs’ line-up from their 2-1 loss to Baroka on September 30: Khune, Moleko, Mathoho, Cardoso, Zulu, Maluleka, Meyiwa (Meyiwa 77′), Ekstein, Jayiya (Zuma 60′), Tshabalala, Paez (Parker 37′).



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Ghana, Niger set for all-African battle in last 16 – 2017 FIFA U17 World Cup – India


Ghana’s Sadiq Ibrahim (R) gestures during the FIFA Under-17 World Cup 2017 group A soccer match between Colombia and Ghana at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi, India, 06 October 2017. EPA/RAJAT GUPTA

by
Graeme Jackson

Monday Oct 16, 2017. 13:00


Ghana and Niger will meet in an all-African last 16 clash at the U-17 World Cup, with their match set for the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai on Wednesday, kick-off at 13h30.

The Black Starlets booked their place in the knockout rounds by finishing top of a tricky Group A. The West Africans were tied on six points with both Colombia and the USA, but their superior goal difference (boosted by a 4-0 win over hosts India in the final round of pool games) saw them placed first.

Despite their strong showing thus far, Ghana have yet to really hit top gear and coach Paa Kwesi Fabin will hope that the do-or-die nature of knockout football inspires his charges to new heights.

The coach has partly blamed the gaze of scouts for his side failing to live up to their full potential: “When the players see that the scouts are around they want to impress, and even if someone is in a better position to score they act selfishly,” he explained.

“It is a big problem for us and we need to tell the boys that the better you play, the more you get recognised.”

Niger are one of the surprise qualifiers for the last 16, with the tournament debutants sneaking into the knockout rounds as one of the four best third-place finishers.

Niger beat North Korea 1-0 in their opening match before suffering 0-4 and 0-2 defeats to Spain and Brazil respectively. The Young Menas will need to bounce back

strongly from those disappointments if they are to pose a challenge to Ghana.

These teams met back in May in the semifinals of the U-17 Africa Cup of Nations: the match in Port-Gentil, Gabon, ended in a goalless stalemate before the Black Starlets won 6-5 on penalties.

The winners will advance into the last eight and face either Mali or Iraq in the first quarterfinal on Saturday in Guwahati.



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City, SuperSport battle for the season’s first trophy – ABSA Premiership 2017/18


Lehlohonolo Majoro of Cape Town City challenged by Morgan Gould of Supersport United during the Absa Premiership 2016/17 match between Supersport United and Cape Town City at the Lucas Moripe Stadium, South Africa on 09 May 2017 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

by
Scent ition

Thursday Oct 12, 2017. 13:30


Cape Town City and SuperSport United will battle for the first trophy on offer in the 2017/18 season when they meet in the MTN8 final. The match is set for 14 October 2017 at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, kick-off at 19h00.

City earned their place in the final thanks to 1-0 and 3-1 (aggregate) victories over Polokwane City and outgoing MTN8 champions Bidvest Wits in the quarter- and semifinals respectively. The Capetonians were much the better side in both cup ties and coach Benni McCarthy will be most pleased with how his charges have acquitted themselves.

The Citizens will be appearing in their first MTN8 final, though it is by no means their first appearance in a trophy decider: last year they picked up their first piece of silverware by triumphing in the Telkom Knockout – at the expense of the very same SuperSport United they are facing in the MTN8.

SuperSport’s path to this final saw them defeat Kaizer Chiefs 1-0 in the quarterfinals, before a 3-1 aggregate victory over Maritzburg United. Coach Eric Tinkler – who took City to their TKO glory last year – has enjoyed immediate success in Tshwane and will be aiming to consolidate that with victory over his former team.

Matsatsantsa have won the MTN8/Top Eight Cup once – 2004 – and this will be their fifth appearance in the final. Their last appearance in the MTN8 final was a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Moroka Swallows in 2012, while they also runners-up in 2005 and 2006.

In head-to-head terms, City and United have met in just one previous cup match: last year’s Telkom KO final. The Cape side claimed a 2-1 win at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane thanks to goals from Aubrey Ngoma and Judas Moseamedi.

The teams have also crossed swords in two league matches, both of which took place in 2016/17. City’s home game in the ‘Mother City’ ended in a 1-1 draw, while the return game in Tshwane was won 4-2 by Matsatsantsa thanks to strikes from Thabo Mnyamane, Clayton Daniels, Jeremie Brockie and Thuso Phala.



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Étoile, Al Ahli battle for semifinal spot in Sousse


Al Ahly Tripoli player Mohamed Al Ghanodi (C) in action against Etoile Sportive player Zied Boughattas (R) and Aymen Sfaxi (L)

by
Bertin Basson

Friday Sep 22, 2017. 14:30


Étoile du Sahel and Al-Ahli Tripoli will cross swords in a 2017 CAF Champions League second-leg, quarterfinal showdown at the Stade Olympique de Sousse on Sunday evening.

The match on the Gulf of Hammamet will kick-off at 7:30pm CAT (6:30pm local time).

Étoile will be favourites to progress, but Al-Ahli will fancy their chances following a 0-0 stalemate in the reverse fixture last weekend. The match at the Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria was hotly contested, and a similar scenario is set to transpire in Sousse.

The first-leg was played at a neutral venue in Egypt due to political turmoil in Libya. This favoured the ‘visitors’, but they were unable to conjure an away goal as they ended the game with 10-men following Diego Acosta’s sending off.

As a result, the Brazilian forward – who has scored four goals in the CAFCL this season – will miss the second-leg clash.

Al-Ahli Tripoli will be aiming to take advantage of his absence in Sousse as they boast a star striker of their won. Muaid Ellafi has found the back of the net on six occasions in Africa’s premier cup competition this season.

ESS remain unbeaten in the CAFCL this season, having registered three wins and three draws on their way to topping their group. The 2007 champions average three-goals a game on home soil, but were held to a 1-1 draw by Al Hilal in Sousse – something their Libyan counterparts will be hoping to replicate.

Al-Ahli have made steady progress on their travels with a heavy defeat away to MC Alger followed by a 4-2 win over CAPS United in Zimbabwe. They rounded off their group stage campaign with a 2-2 draw against Zamalek to seal progression.

The aggregate winner will face a tough task in the semifinals as they will come up against either two-time champions Espérance de Tunis, or eight-time winners – the mighty – Al Ahly.

Zambian match official Janny Sikazwe will take charge of the match.



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Sundowns, Wydad ready for quarterfinal battle


Percy Tau of Mamelodi Sundowns celebrating his goal during the Absa Premiership 2017/18 game between Free State Stars and Mamelodi Sundowns at Goble Park, Bethlehem on 11 September 2017 © Frikkie Kapp/BackpagePix

by
Graeme Jackson

Thursday Sep 14, 2017. 10:30


Mamelodi Sundowns and Wydad Casablanca will begin battle for a place in the CAF Champions League semifinals when they meet at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Tshwane on Sunday, kick-off at 15h00 CAT.

The teams’ first leg, quarterfinal clash promises to be a thrilling South v North African battle in which the competition’s title holders will seek a strong advantage to take with them to Morocco next weekend.

Wydad were one of the more impressive teams on show in the previous round: they topped a tough Group D ahead of eight-time champions Al Ahly and also have the honour of being the reigning Moroccan title holders.

However, their domestic league campaign got off to a rocky start last weekend when they were beaten 3-1 at home by rivals FUS Rabat, and they will have had significantly less time to prepare for this clash in the wake of a Thursday afternoon match against Rapide Oued Zem.

Sundowns secured their place in the last eight by finishing second behind Tunisian heavyweights Esperance de Tunis in Group C, with a record of two wins, three draws and just one defeat.

The Brazilians will be hoping to improve on their home form: they didn’t win any of the three group matches they hosted and have also lost both of their domestic home matches so far in the 2017/18 season.

Coach Pitso Mosimane will have to cope with a lengthy list of injuries, but his side’s victory away to Free State Stars in a domestic league game earlier this week demonstrated their strength in depth.

“Anthony [Laffor] is on crutches, Khama [Billiat] is injured, Leo [Castro] made it through a late fitness test, [Tiyani] Mabunda is injured. We need to make sure that we look after the team. A team that played tonight is a team I trusted. If you’re in the team of Mamelodi Sundowns, you have to play, there’s no first team and second team,” the ‘Downs coach said after the game against Stars.

The match in Tshwane will be handled by Ethiopian referee Bamlak Tessema Weyesa. The return leg is set for Saturday 23 September at the Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca. The aggregate winners will face either Ferroviario Beira or USM Alger in the semifinals.



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North African rivals Rabat and Sfaxien geared for quarterfinal battle – 2017 CAF Confederation Cup


Club Sportif Sfaxien player Hamza Mathlouthi ( C) fights for the ball with Mouloudia Club D’Alger player Ayoub Azzi (R) during the 2017 CAF Confederations Cup game between Sfaxien and Mouloudia Club D’Alger in Sfax, Tunisia on 8 July 2017 © BackpagePix

by
Graeme Jackson

Wednesday Sep 13, 2017. 16:30


North African rivals Faith Union Sport and CS Sfaxien will begin battle for a place in the last four of the CAF Confederation Cup when they face off on Saturday night.

The teams will clash in the first leg of their quarterfinal tie at the Stade de FUS in Rabat, with kick-off set for 21h30 CAT.

Tunisia’s CSS should be regarded as one of the favourites to win this year’s continental competition. They have the pedigree of being three-time Confed Cup champions and booked their place in the quarterfinals by topping Group B ahead of MC Alger, suffering just one defeat in the process.

New coach Jose Mota has also overseen a strong start to their domestic 2017/18 championship, with Sfaxien recording two wins and two draws from four matches. They were last in action on Saturday with an impressive 3-1 victory at Stade Gabesien.

Morocco’s FUS can count themselves lucky to have progressed into the final eight. They were runners-up in Group A (behind another Tunisian side, Club Africain) but finished level on points with KCCA, only edging ahead of the Ugandans on head-to-head results – they beat the East Africans 3-0 in Rabat, but lost 3-1 in Kampala, with their lone away goal proving crucial in the tie breakers.

Yet coach Walid Regragui’s side seem to be in ominous form ahead of this Confed Cup clash: they handed Morocco’s defending champions Wydad Casablanca a football lesson when the teams met in the opening round of the country’s 2017/18 domestic season this past weekend – so much so that Wydad fans applauded FUS’s players and turned on their own, according to reports in their local media.

South African referee Daniel Bennett will be in charge of the match in Rabat, with the return leg set for Friday 22 September at Stade Taieb Mhiri in Sfax. The aggregate winners will face either Al-Hilal Al-Ubayyid or TP Mazembe in the semifinals.



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Advantage Maritzburg in battle of the Uniteds – MTN8 2017


Deolin Mekoa of Martizburg United challenged by Grant Kekana of Supersport United during MTN8 Semifinal match between Supersport United and Maritzburg United at Lucas Moripe Stadium, Atteridgeville South Africa on 26 August 2017 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

by
Graeme Jackson

Thursday Sep 07, 2017. 11:41


Maritzburg United will look to seal a place in the MTN8 final for the first time when they welcome SuperSport United to the Harry Gwala Stadium on 9 September 2017, kick-off at 20h15.

The teams’ first leg, semifinal clash at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in late August ended in a 1-1 draw, with Thuso Phala’s goal early in the second half cancelled out by a late equaliser for Lebohang Maboe. The Maritzburg attacker’s away goal could yet prove decisive, with the Team of Choice now in a position where a clean sheet will guarantee progression into the final.

Coach Fadlu Davids’ side have been in impressive form early in the 2017/18 season and currently sit at the top of the Absa Premiership standings alongside Cape Town City (and there’s a good chance the two teams could meet in the MTN8 final!). How they react to reassembling after the international break could well determine their fate in this semifinal tie.

Matsatsantsa coach Eric Tinkler, meanwhile, claimed he was thankful for the break to work on his team’s fitness and tactics. The Tshwane side are very much alive in the tie and will fancy their chances of reaching the MTN8 final for the first time since 2012, when they were beaten by Moroka Swallows.

The 1-1 draw between the two Uniteds was their third cup clash – the previous two were outright wins for SuperSport in the quarterfinals of both the 2012 Telkom Knockout and the 2013 Nedbank Cup. Overall, the teams have clashed in 25 matches since 2005/06, with Matsatsantsa claiming 14 wins compared to just two for the Team of Choice.

The aggregate winners will face either Bidvest Wits or Cape Town City in the 2017 MTN8 final. The latter leads 1-0 ahead of the teams’ second leg clash in Johannesburg on September 10.



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Lions, Stallions clash in epic Dakar battle – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers


Senegal players dejected after loosing on penalties during the Afcon Quarter Final match between Senegal and Cameroon on the 28 January 2017 at Franceville , Gabon Pic Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

by
Phumzile Ngcatshe

Friday Sep 01, 2017. 16:00


Senegal and Burkina Faso will lock horns in a 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier at the Stade Léopold Sédar Senghor in Dakar on Saturday evening.

Kick-off is at 20h00 local time (22h00 CAT).

The Lions of Teranga will be desperate to get back to winning ways having suffered a 2-1 defeat to South Africa in their most recent Group D encounter. This following a 2-0 win over Cape Verde on home soil.

Senegal, though, will remain favourites to book their ticket to the world showpiece in Russia with the West African giants aiming to qualify for a first World Cup since the 2002 showpiece in Japan/South Korea where they reached the final eight.

Burkina Faso, though, will be no pushovers and followed a 1-1 draw against Bafana Bafana in Ouagadougou with a 2-0 win over Cape Verde in Praia.

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Liverpool star Sadio Mane is under no illusion of the importance of the upcoming back-to-back fixtures against The Stallions, with Head Coach Aliou Cissé also stressing the importance of the clash.

“We are aware of the expectations of the Senegalese public. I can tell them that we will not disappoint them,” a confident Mane said.

Cissé added: “Burkina Faso is our direct opponent and we have to win this match and hope to continue on that trend as we aim book our ticket to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.”

The reverse fixture will take place at the Stade du 4 Août next Tuesday, 5 September 2017.

Head-to-Head:

Games: 11

Senegal Wins: 4

Burkina Faso Wins: 2

Draws: 5

Goals for Senegal: 18

Goals for Burkina Faso: 11

Last Three Encounters:

07 Oct 2006 Burkina Faso v Senegal 1-0

08 Sep 2007 Senegal v Burkina Faso 5-1

21 May 2014 Burkina Faso v Senegal 1-1

Key Players:

With Abdou Abdou Razack Traore (injured) and Jonathan Pitroipa (not selected) absent from Burkina Faso’s squad, head coach Paulo Duarte will be hoping that Aristide Bancé can come up with the goods once more.

As for Senegal, they welcome back both Mane and captain Cheikhou Kouyaté from injury with Keita Baldé Diao, who recently joined Monaco, to light up Dakar. Throw in the likes of Idrissa Gana Gueye and Kalidou Koulibaly, the Lions of Teranga are a force to be reckoned with.



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Super Eagles, Indomitable Lions geared for Uyo battle – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers – Africa


Kelechi IHEANACHO of Nigeria and Rais MBOLHI of Algeria during the Russia 2018 World Cup Qualifier match between Nigeria vs Algeria on November, 12th 2016 at Godswill Akpabio Stadium
©Kabiru Abubakar//Backpagepix

by
Graeme Jackson

Tuesday Aug 29, 2017. 16:30


The clash between West African giants Nigeria and Cameroon is set to be the pick of the continent’s 2018 World Cup qualifying matches.

The teams will meet for their first match at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo on Friday evening, kick-off at 18h00CAT.

Nigeria come into the clash sitting pretty at the top of Group B with a full haul of six points following wins over Zambia and Algeria in their first two matches. Cameroon are placed second on the log with two points, having played to 1-1 draws against the same opponents.

If the Super Eagles win both clashes against the Indomitable Lions (the second match is set for Yaounde on September 4), and neither Zambia nor Algeria manage to claim the full six points on offer from their two meetings, then Gernot Rohr’s team will qualify for Russia 2018 with two rounds to spare.

“To start with, we are not going into those two games with a loser mentality. We strongly believe we’ll win, that is our belief, so I’m not thinking about my fate at this time. The mission is only to win our remaining matches and qualify Nigeria to the FIFA World Cup Russia,” Rohr told the Daily Trust.

The German tactician has had to deal with some selection headaches ahead of the first match in Uyo, with Arsenal star Alex Iwobi ruled out with injury and a persistent worry over which goalkeeper to select: Daniel Akpeyi, Dele Alampasu and Ikechukwu Ezenwa are all available, though none has won the trust of Nigerian fans.

As for Cameroon, they have been crowned Africa Cup of Nations champions since their last action in the World Cup qualifiers, and coach Hugo Broos will lead a squad confident of their ability to beat Nigeria in their own back yard.

Chinese-based forward Christian Basogog has no qualms in stating his side’s ambition. “Nigeria are a strong team,” he told FIFA’s website.

“They have very good players and many of them are playing in Europe. But we must defeat them if we are to maintain our qualifying hopes. We should take the game to them. We need to fight to defeat them.”

These two West African heavyweights have not been regular combatants down the years, meeting in just 18 matches across all competitions according to FIFA’s statistics database.

The record is very much in favour of the Super Eagles, who have claimed 10 wins compared to just three for the Indomitable Lions, while five matches have been drawn.

Four of those 18 matches were in previous World Cup qualification campaigns, stretching way back to 1968 (for the 1970 tournament in Mexico) and 1989 (for Italy 1990): Nigeria claimed two wins, Cameroon one, and one match was drawn.

The teams’ most recent clash was a friendly on neutral ground in Brussels on 11 October 2015: Nigeria won 3-0 thanks to goals from Efe Ambrose, Moses Simon and Odion Ighalo, while Cameroon finished the game with 10 men following the dismissal of Stephane M’Bia.

Egyptian referee Gehad Grisha will take charge of the match in Uyo on Friday. The return game is set for the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaounde on September 4.



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Battle of the Uniteds in MTN8 semifinals – MTN8 2017


Mohau Mokate of Maritzburg United challenged by Morgan Gould of Supersport United during the Absa Premiership 2016/17 match between Supersport United and Maritzburg United at Lucas Moripe Stadium, Pretoria South Africa on 22 February 2017 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

by
Graeme Jackson

Friday Aug 25, 2017. 10:30


SuperSport United and Maritzburg United will renew their rivalry in the semifinals of the MTN8, with their first leg clash set for Lucas Moripe Stadium on 26 August 2017, kick-off at 20h15.

SuperSport booked their place in the last four thanks to a 1-0 win over Kaizer Chiefs, with Jeremy Brockie scoring the decisive goal to hand Eric Tinkler a winning start to the 2017/18 season.

But if Matsatsantsa’s win was a turn up for the books, it was nothing compared to Maritzburg’s 1-0 triumph over Mamelodi Sundowns in the quarterfinals. Evans Rusike scored the only goal of the match as the Team of Choice moved into the semifinals of the MTN8 for the first time in their history.

The two Uniteds have met in just two previous cup clashes, both of which were in the 2012/13 season. SuperSport defeated Maritzburg in the quarterfinals of both the Telkom Knockout (2-0 away) and Nedbank Cup (2-1 away).

Overall, the teams have clashed in 24 matches across all competitions since 2005/06. The record is skewed very much in favour of Matsatsantsa, who have claimed 14 wins compared to just two for their KwaZulu-Natal counterparts.

The Tshwane side are also unbeaten in their last five meetings with Maritzburg, including a league ‘double’ in the 2016/17 Absa Premiership – the teams’ most recent clashes. SuperSport won 1-0 away in the first half of the campaign, before claiming an emphatic 4-1 triumph in the return game at home.

However, neither of those defeats came with Fadlu Davids in charge of the Team of Choice. The young coach took over the reins in the latter stages of last season and did such a fine job that he has since been appointed permanently.

He only enhanced his reputation with the victory over Mamelodi Sundowns and his battle of tactical wits with counterpart Tinkler promises to be one of the highlights of this semifinal battle.



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Chippa, AmaZulu set for midweek battle – ABSA Premiership 2017/18


Musa Nyatama of Orlando Pirates is challenged by Andile Mbenyane of Chippa United during the Absa Premiership match between Orlando Pirates and Chippa United on the 19 August 2017 at Orlando Stadium © Sydney Mahlangu /BackpagePix

by
Graeme Jackson

Monday Aug 21, 2017. 09:06


Chippa United and AmaZulu will meet for a midweek Absa Premiership battle at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on 22 August 2017, kick-off at 19h30.

Chippa opened their league campaign on a losing note as they went down 1-0 away to Orlando Pirates on Saturday evening. Thamsanqa Gabuza scored the only goal of the game as the Eastern Cape side slumped to a loss on the road.

It’s a feeling the Chilli Boys and coach Dan Malesela are used to, having suffered no less than 10 defeats from their 15 away matches last season. A return to Port Elizabeth this midweek will be very welcome, as they look to turn the NMBS into a fortress.

AmaZulu made a winning return to the top flight after they defeated Free State Stars 1-0 at home this past weekend. A late penalty from Tapelo Nyongo ensured the KwaZulu-Natal side got up and running with an early three pointer.

Coach Cavin Johnson will reiterate the need for discipline as his side heads down the East Coast for what promises to be a challenging clash against a dangerous and unpredictable opponent.

In head-to-head stats, Chippa and AmaZulu have met in just four previous league matches. The Eastern Cape side boasts an unbeaten record, with two victories and two draws – both of the stalemates arrived in home matches for the Chilli Boys, including the teams’ most recent meeting, a 1-1 draw back in March 2015.

That draw in the Eastern Cape followed a 1-0 win for Chippa earlier in the season, ensuring they took four points off Usuthu through the course of the 2014/15 PSL campaign.

Chippa’s line-up from their 1-0 loss to Pirates on 19 August: Mhlongo, Mako, Thopola, Okwuosa, Mdinzo, Zuke, Lentjies (Mabaso 50′), Masuku (Mayambela 67′), Macheke, Sekola, Mbenyane (Mbokoma 55′).

AmaZulu’s line-up from their 1-0 win over Stars on 19 August: Pule, Mtsweni, Ouro-Akoriko, Sikhakhane, Nyongo, Morton, Darpoh, Zungu (Mngqibisa 67′), Karuru, Ramphele (L.Dlamini 79′), Khenyeza.



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Spurs to battle Red Devils for Aurier – 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers – Africa


Manchester City‘s Sergio Aguero (right) and Paris Saint-Germain’s Serge Aurier in action

by
Bertin Basson

Tuesday Jul 25, 2017. 17:00


Tottenham Hotspur are also reportedly keen on landing want-away Paris Saint Germain defender Serge Aurier before the end of the transfer window.

Spurs are in for another right-back following the sale of Kyle Walker to Manchester City for a whopping £50 million.

With money in the bank and PSG open to sell following their capture of Dani Alves, Spurs could land the Ivory Coast international for half the price they demanded for Walker.

Interest from Manchester United and Inter Milan, though, could up Aurier’s price with The Sun reporting that the 24-year-old’s wage demands could throw a spanner in the works for Spurs.

Only three of Mauricio Pochettino’s men earn over £100,000-a-week (Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen and Harry Kane) with the club unlikely to offer Aurier the money he demands.



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Djibouti face a monster uphill battle in Ethiopia


by
Phumzile Ngcatshe

Thursday Jul 20, 2017. 14:30


Djibouti will want to avenge their massive defeat at home when they visit Ethiopia for the second leg of their 2018 CAF African Championships qualifier on Sunday.

The Shoremen of the Red Sea failed to ignite at home and are now under pressure to bag a win in the second leg.

A 5-1 drubbing at home was not a result they wanted, but they will now hope to find their scoring boots and overturn the result.

Although it will not be easy, coach Noureddine Gharsalli has to uplift the morale of his players and ensure they get a win at all costs.

Shifting focus to the Walia Ibex, as hosts they have an added advantage coming to this encounter as they have a massive goal advantage.

Scoring five away goals has bascially secured their passage into the next round of qualifying, but they still have to remain disciplined at the back to ensure they do not concede.

The winner of the two leg affair will set up a thriller against Burundi or Sudan on 11 August 2017 in the next round of CHAN qualifiers.

The encounter will be staged at Hawassa Stadium in Ethiopia at 18:00 (CAT).



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Zamalek, Al Ahli Tripoli in battle for quarterfinal berth


Zamalek player Mahmud Hamdy (L) in action against Zamalek vs USM Alger player Oussama Darfalou (R) during the African Champions League

by
Graeme Jackson

Friday Jul 07, 2017. 15:30


Zamalek and Al Ahli Tripoli will meet at the Petro Sport Stadium in Cairo on Sunday night with a place in the quarterfinals of the CAF Champions League on the line.

Zamalek come into Matchday 6 sitting at the bottom of Group C with just five points, three adrift of co-leaders USM Alger and Tripoli, while Zimbabwe’s CAPS United are third on six points.

For the White Knights to progress they must defeat Tripoli and hope that USMA are not beaten at home by CAPS in the group’s other match in Algiers on Sunday night.

This combination of results would see the Algerians top the pool, while Zamalek and Tripoli would be level in second place on eight points apiece – the Egyptians would then advance on the head-to-head results tiebreaker.

However, if CAPS do manage a win in Algeria, then they will top the group and send the trio of North African teams into a mini-log tiebreaker involving only games played between themselves – in this scenario USMA join the Zimbabweans in the last eight.

The good news for the White Knights is that USMA have won both of their home games in the group stage, while CAPS have lost both of their matches on the road, suggesting that an upset victory is unlikely.

Al Ahli Tripoli, meanwhile, need only a draw in Cairo to secure a place in the quarterfinals, and they have already shown they are capable of matching Zamalek: the teams played to a goalless stalemate in Sfax on Matchday 2 back in May.

The other Group C match between USMA and CAPS United will held at the same time at the Stade Omar Hamadi in Algiers. Madagascar referee Hamada Nampiandraza will take charge of the game in Cairo.



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Club Africain, KCCA battle for top spot


Denis Okot Oola of KCCA challenges Benard Evoke of Rivers United during the 2017 CAF Confederation football match between Rivers United and Kampala City at Yakubu Gowon Stadium in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. @Kabiru Abubakar/BackpagePix

by
Graeme Jackson

Thursday Jul 06, 2017. 11:30


Club Africain and KCCA will battle for top spot in Group A of the CAF Confederation Cup when they meet at the Olympic Stadium in Rades on Friday night, kick-off at 21h00 CAT.

Both sides took major strides toward the quarterfinals with crucial victories last weekend: the Ugandan side defeated FUS Rabat 3-1 in Kampala, while Club Africain became the first team in the group to take any points on the road as they won 2-0 in Nigeria against Rivers United.

As a result the pair sit atop the pool with nine points each, holding a three point advantage over both United and FUS.

A draw in this match will see both CA and Kampala advance into the quarters, while even a defeat may not necessarily be terminal: for example, if Africain lost and Rivers won in the group’s other match, they would both finish on nine points, but the Tunisians hold a superior head-to-head record and would qualify regardless.

A cynical observer would imagine that the teams will have a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ to play out a draw and both progress, but given that the group winners will have the advantage of playing the second leg of their quarterfinal at home, the chances of the teams simply going through the motions are slim.

KCCA would end in first place if the game ended in a draw, while CA must win by two clear goals to win the group. The two teams advancing will face MC Alger and CS Sfaxien, who have already secured progression from Group B.

The other Group A match between FUS Rabat and Rivers United will be played at the same time in Morocco. Zambian referee Wellington Kaoma will officiate the game in Rades.



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Madagascar come out top in battle of the Islanders


Gervais Waye Hive of Seychelles challenged by Jaotombo Bourahim of Madagascar during the Cosafa Castle Cup match between Madagascar and Seychelles at the Moruleng Stadium in Rustenburg on 26 June 2017 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

by
Bertin Basson

Monday Jun 26, 2017. 21:48


Madagascar beat fellow Island nation Seychelles 2-0 in a Group B 2017 COSAFA Cup clash at the Moruleng Stadium in the North West Province of South Africa, on Monday evening.

Victory moves Barea level on points with Zimbabwe who earlier thumped Mozambique 4-0 at the same venue.

Following what was a rather cagey start, Madagascar conjured the first chance of the match with Tobisoa Njakanirina squandering a golden opportunity. The attacker choosing to square the ball when he should have shot at goal after bursting through on goal in the 20th minute.

Bourahim then forced Dingwall into a top save just short of the half-hour mark. The forward meeting the ball firmly on the volley, but the Pirates goal-minder was up to the task.

Dingwall then showed great anticipation to deny Madagacascar in the 42nd minute as he rushed out of his area to clear with imminent danger lurking.

The shot-stopper, though was helpless two minutes later as Barea opened the scoring on the cusp of half-time. Brioche guilty of squandering a chance for the Seychelles before Madagascar made their fellow Islanders pay on the resulting counter-attack.

Nono Vombola unselfishly teeing up Dino Raveloarisona for the opener – the forward left with the easiest of finishes, 1-0 at the break.

Seychelles looked a lot better following the interval with Waye-Hive sparking a good spell of pressure in the 53rd minute. The Pirates captain’s left-footed shot well saved by Leda Randrianasolo in the Madagascan goal.

Madagascar, though, were to score next as Rinjala Raherinaivo doubled their lead in the 76th minute.

The post coming to Seychelles rescue, but sighs of relief would turn to sighs of despair as the midfielder latched onto the rebound, setting himself before curling a left-footed finish into the top corner of the net.

Barea guided through the final exchanges with relative ease as they got their campaign off to the perfect start.



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Angola and Tanzania battle for Group A top spot


Afonso Cabungula of Angola challenged by Peter Bell of Mauritius during the Cosafa Castle Cup match between Mauritius and Angola at the Moruleng Stadium in Rustenburg on 25 June 2017 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

by
Austin Ditlhobolo

Monday Jun 26, 2017. 16:30


Angola and Tanzania are scheduled to meet in the 2017 COSAFA Cup Group A match at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg on Tuesday.

Kick-off is at 19h30 CAT.

Palancas Negras recorded a 1-0 victory over Mauritius in their first group match which was played at the Moruleng Stadium in Moruleng on Sunday.

The victory sees Angola placed second on the Group A standings with three points and their coach Roberto Bianchi will be targeting another win on Tuesday.

Augusto Domingos Quibeto, who scored against Mauritius, is nursing an injury and Palancas Negras will be hoping that the striker regains his full fitness before they face Tanzania.

Meanwhile, Tanzania brushed aside Malawi 2-0 in their first group match which was also played in Moruleng on Sunday.

The win took the Taifa Stars to the top of the Group A standings with three points and another victory for the Salum Mayanga-coached side will see them remain at the top.

Shiza Kichuya Ramadhani, who grabbed a brace against Malawi, is the player to watch out for in the Tanzania team and he will be targeting more goals against Angola.



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Super Eagles, Bafana Bafana battle for Group E ascendancy – 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers


Eagles striker Olanare Aaron Samuel (right)

by
Graeme Jackson

Wednesday Jun 07, 2017. 15:30


Nigeria will welcome South Africa for a vital Group E clash in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers when they meet in Uyo on Saturday, June 10. The match is set for the Akwa Ibom Stadium, with kick-off at 18h00 CAT.

Neither the Super Eagles nor Bafana Bafana qualified for the last AFCON in Gabon earlier this year, meaning a place in the 2019 finals is a major priority for both – at least until the 2018 World Cup qualifiers resume.

While Nigeria have had German coach Gernot Rohr in charge of their team for the better part of a year, South Africa will see this match as the start of a new era under Stuart Baxter.

The Englishman is entering his second spell in charge of Bafana Bafana and immediately faces a huge challenge in overseeing an attempted return to the AFCON.

Yet there is a sense of deja vu for SA, who were in a very similar position ahead of the qualifiers for the 2015 tournament: ‘Shakes’ Mashaba had just taken charge of the team (for his second permanent tenure) and they found themselves in a challenging group alongside Nigeria.

What followed was an unbeaten campaign in which Bafana topped the group, secured qualification for the AFCON finals and ensured the Super Eagles didn’t make the cut.

Yet Baxter and Bafana would be foolish to expect a repeat – certainly not without some serious hard work and the odd slice of luck. And this Nigeria team is far improved from the one which missed out on the 2015 (and 2017) finals.

For a start, Rohr has brought a greater sense of organisation and discipline to the team, which has mostly not compromised the natural attacking flair Nigeria have always been renowned for.

For proof of their improvement, look no further than the Russia 2018 qualifiers, where Rohr’s Eagles are top of the ‘Group of Death’ thanks to impressive wins over Zambia and Algeria.

And they also racked up a big 3-0 win over Togo in a friendly last week, though Rohr reckons they have plenty to work on ahead of meeting South Africa: “Our team is young and has a good future, [but] there is a lot of work to do still,” he told Kwesé ESPN.

“We had a good camp in Corsica on the invitation of their association. Between the mountain and the sea, we could work well with our four local [in Nigeria’s domestic league] players and new ones like [Henry] Onyekuru and [Mikel] Agu.

“And we also had excellent conditions in Paris. Nice pitches and a beautiful stadium where we got to work on two different organizations, 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2 and give competitive football to the players who needed it.”

Nigeria have generally bossed South Africa in senior football, with the Super Eagles claiming seven victories (compared to just one for Bafana Bafana) in 12 official meetings. SA have never beaten Nigeria in a competitive match, with the teams playing to draws in their meetings in the 2015 qualifiers.



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Limpopo rivals set for playoff battle – ABSA Premiership 2016/17


Richard Matloga of Baroka FC during the Absa Premiership match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Baroka FC on 10 May 2017 at Lucas Moripe Stadium © Sydney Mahlangu /BackpagePix

by
Graeme Jackson

Tuesday Jun 06, 2017. 08:00


Limpopo rivals Baroka FC and Black Leopards will continue the PSL Promotion Playoffs when they meet at Peter Mokaba Stadium on Wednesday, kick-off at 15h00 CAT.

The Playoffs log is currently topped by Stellenbosch FC, who played to draws in their matches against Baroka (2-2) and Leopards (0-0) last week.

This match gives the two Limpopo sides the chance to claim the first win of the Playoffs and take control at the top at the halfway point of the three-team tournament.

Baroka, according to coach Kgoloko Thobejane, will look to the duo of Nkosinathi Ndlovu and Jacky Motshegwa for inspiration.

The pair of players did not see a great deal of action in the regular season, but look to be giving Bakgaga extra energy in the Playoffs.

“With Ndlovu, it was because of a thigh injury, and he only returned in the last game,” Thobejane explained.

“It took him a long time to recover, that’s why he hasn’t showed up. But he was with us all this time.

“But you are going to see a lot of them this time around. They are back now. As you can see, Ndlovu is always giving us goals and assists, and he scored against Stellenbosch.”

Baroka and Leopards last met in the National First Division in the 2015/16 season and played to two goalless draws in October 2015 and February 2016.

This will be the first of two successive home matches for Baroka, who will welcome Stellenbosch to the Peter Mokaba Stadium this coming weekend.



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TP Mazembe, SuperSport battle for top spot – 2017 CAF Confederation Cup


Thuso Phala of Supersport United challenged by Karl Mboudou of CF Mounana during the 2017 CAF Confederation Cup match between CF Mounana and Supersport United at the Libreville Stadium in Gabon on 23 May 2017 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

by
Graeme Jackson

Thursday Jun 01, 2017. 14:30


TP Mazembe and SuperSport United will battle for control of Group D in the CAF Confederation Cup when they meet in Lubumbashi on Sunday, kick-off at 15h00 CAT.

The teams are level on four points apiece at the top of the log, with the South African side holding the edge on goal difference.

United certainly enjoyed their last trip into Africa, claiming an emphatic 5-3 win over CF Mounana in Gabon in the previous Matchday, with Grant Kekana, Thabo Mnyamane and Jeremy Brockie sharing five goals between them.

Yet they will face a much tougher test of their credentials when they face Mazembe at their stronghold in Lubumbashi. The DR Congo side eased to a 2-0 win over Mounana in their other home match, before playing to a 1-1 draw away to Horoya last time out.

The Ravens are the defending Confed Cup champions and will back themselves to overcome a Matsatsantsa side which has struggled for consistency of late and may already have one eye on their Nedbank Cup final against Orlando Pirates later this month.

This match will be the first of a double-header between the teams, with the return game in Pretoria scheduled for June 20.

Nigerian referee Ferdinand Udoh Aniete will take charge of the match in Lubumbashi. The other Group D match sees CF Mounana host Horoya in Libreville



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Senegal to battle for knockout berth – 2017 FIFA U20 World Cup


by
Graeme Jackson

Saturday May 27, 2017. 12:00


Senegal will fight for a place in the knockout rounds of the U-20 World Cup when they face Ecuador in their final Group F clash on Sunday.

The teams will meet at the Jeonju World Cup Stadium on May 28, with kick-off set for 11h00 CAT.

Senegal come into the match placed second on the standings on three points. United States top the pool with four points, Saudi Arabia are level with the West Africans on three points, and Ecuador have just one point to their name.

The Young Lions of Teranga opened their campaign with an impressive 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia, but fell to a 1-0 loss at the hands of USA on Wednesday in Incheon.

Coach Joseph Koto saw his side wasted several good chances against America, but he will need his players to put that behind them as they close out their Group F campaign.

A win against Ecuador will guarantee direct qualification to the knockout rounds as one of the top two teams. Senegal could also qualify with a draw, depending on the result of the simultaneous game between USA and Saudi Arabia in Daejeon.

The Young Teranga Lions reached the semifinals of the last U-20 World Cup in 2015 and will be determined to try and at least match that feat in South Korea this year.



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Arrows, Pirates battle for top eight hopes – ABSA Premiership 2016/17


Dove Wome of Orlando Pirates id challenged by Wayde Jooste of Golden Arrows during the Nedbank Cup Semi Final match between Golden Arrows and Orlando Pirates on 21 May 2017 at Princess Magogo Stadium © Sydney Mahlangu /BackpagePix

by
Graeme Jackson

Friday May 26, 2017. 11:30


Golden Arrows and Orlando Pirates will both be looking to end in the top eight of the Absa Premiership when they meet at Moses Mabhida Stadium on 27 May 2017, kick-off at 15h00.

Arrows suffered a third loss in their last five league matches when they were beaten 1-0 at Cape Town City on May 17.

The Durban side has claimed 22 points from 14 home matches this season.

Abafana Bes’thende are placed ninth on the Absa Premiership log with 35 points from 29 matches.

Pirates have gone four league matches without a win (or scoring) after they were held 0-0 at home by Ajax Cape Town on May 17.

The Soweto side has claimed 13 points from 14 away matches this season.

The Buccaneers are placed 11th on the Absa Premiership log with 33 points from 29 matches.

In head-to-head stats, Pirates and Arrows have met in 31 league matches since 2000/01.

The Buccaneers have 18 wins compared to five for Abafana Bes’thende, while eight matches have been drawn.

Arrows have won three of their 15 home league matches against Pirates, suffering eight defeats in the process.

When the teams met earlier this season, the Buccaneers claimed a 3-1 home win in Soweto.

The teams’ 31 league meetings have produced a total of 74 goals.

Arrows’ line-up from their 1-0 loss to City: Gumede, Mthiyane, Mathiane, Jooste (Fikizolo 68′), Phiri, Mutizwa (Sibiya 79′), Mzava, Dlamini, Bilankulu, Magubane (Lamola 59′), Mahachi.

Pirates’ line-up from their 0-0 draw with Ajax: Mabokgwane, Van Heerden, Mobara, Jele, Matlaba, Rakhale, Sarr, Manyisa, Norodien (Memela 76′), Wome (Motupa 61′), Ndoro (Gabuza 61′).



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Battle of the Cities in Polokwane – ABSA Premiership 2016/17


Lehlohonolo Majoro of Cape Town City celebrates © Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

by
Graeme Jackson

Friday May 26, 2017. 10:20


Polokwane City and Cape Town City will wrap up their Absa Premiership campaigns with a match at the old Peter Mokaba Stadium on 27 May 2017, kick-off at 15h00.

Polokwane suffered a second defeat in their last three league matches when they were beaten 2-0 at Bidvest Wits on May 17.

The Limpopo side has claimed 23 points from 14 matches this season.

Rise and Shine are placed sixth on the Absa Premiership log with 40 points from 29 matches.

CTC claimed their 16th league win of the season when they defeated Golden Arrows 1-0 at home on May 17.

The Cape Town side has claimed 22 points from 14 away matches this season.

The Citizens are placed third on the Absa Premiership log with 55 points from 29 matches.

In head-to-head stats, Polokwane and CTC have met in just one previous top flight league match.

That encounter took place earlier this season, with the Citizens claiming a 2-0 home win in Cape Town.

Polokwane’s line-up from their 2-0 loss to Wits: Chigova, Semenya, Phiri, Hlongwane, Tshilo, Mngomezulu, Ramagalela, Tema (Maponyane 83′), Vilakazi, Manaka (Tlolane 65′), Musona (Ndou 48′).

CTC’s line-up from their 1-0 win over Arrows: Walters, Seedat, Johannes, Gumede, Mkhize, Putsche (Nodada 61′), Mokeke, Ngoma, Jayiya (Moseamedi 70′), Manyama, Majoro (Koapeng 79′).



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