The curtains are up for Bafana Bafana in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) as they gear up to exchange blows with a well-oiled machine of Morocco in the round of 16 on Tuesday.
Kick-off at San Pédro, Ivory Coast, is 10pm (SA time).
Like South Africa, Morocco will be up in arms and in pursuit to bring their A-game in what will be one of the biggest and crunching knockout matches so far in the current Afcon.
Having fallen short and came second best to Bafana in their group during the Afcon qualifiers last year, the Moroccans will undoubtedly be waiting with bated breaths to finally get their revenge against the South Africans.
Bafana stunned Morocco in June last year when coach Hugo Broos’ men produced a stellar performance and won 2-1 in front of their home crowed.
For Bafana, more than anything, their midfield and defence will have to be at the highest level of discipline as they will be going up against an aggressive Atlas Lions attack. The likes of Galatasaray winger Hakim Ziyech, Sevilla talisman Youssef En-Nesyri and former Southampton star Sofiane Boufal will be eager to lead the attack.
Paris Saint-Germain full-back Achraf Hakimi, who has been the stand-out player for Morocco so far, will come up against the likes of Aubrey Modiba down the right flank.
Hakimi has been directly involved in three of Morocco’s five goals so far and will be one to watch. In the middle of the park, where most of the duels and action is expected to take place, will be overloaded with tremendous quality from both sides.
The likes of Manchester United midfielder Sofyan Amrabat, PSV Eindhoven’s Ismael Saibari and Marseille playmaker Azzedine Ounahi will be in the forefront in plotting the downfall of Bafana.
Thus, the midfield pairing of workhorses Teboho Mokoena and Sphephelo Sithole will be required to continue their rock-solid partnership and be at the top of their game like they never did before.
Despite Morocco being among the tournament’s favourites that have not been entirely convincing in the group stages, aside from reigning champions Senegal, they still look good enough to go far. However, it might all come to a crashing halt against Bafana on Tuesday night.