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Bafana Bafana tackle Leopards in third-place playoffs

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South Africa will be hoping to end their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) journey on a positive note as they prepare to take on DR Congo at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium on Saturday evening. The match will determine which nation finishes third in this year’s edition of the tournament.

Kick-off is at 10pm CAT (SA, GMT+2)

CURRENT FORM

Bafana Bafana had a decent run in the tournament, finishing in second place of Group E.

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South Africa went on to defeat Morocco in the Round of 16 2-0 and made it past the quarterfinal stage by beating Cape Verde on penalties.

They unfortunately succumbed to defeat close to the finish line by losing their semifinal against Nigeria in a penalty shootout.

The Leopards drew all of their group stage encounters but still qualified for the knockout stages of the Cup of Nations.

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They beat Egypt on penalties in the Round of 16 and went on to defeat Guinea 3-1 in the quarterfinal.

They unfortunately failed to make it to the final, losing to the hosts Ivory Coasts 1-0 in the semifinal.

TEAM NEWS

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Hugo Broos, the head coach of Bafana Bafana, is expected to revert to a back four after his team equaled Nigeria’s back three in the semifinal defeat.

With Grant Kekana out against Nigeria in extra time due to suspension, Siyanda Xulu is anticipated to start at centre back.

Theo Bongonda, who is anticipated to start for the DRC against South Africa, replaced Gael Kakuta, who had made a comeback to the team against the Elephants, after just 45 minutes of play.

Leopards head coach Sebastien Desabre may ask his Afcon 2023 outfield players—Chancel Mbemba, Arthur Masuaku, Samuel Moutoussamy, and Gedeon Kalulu—to put in one more performance on Saturday.

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WHAT WAS SAID?

Hugo Broos expressed that he was still proud of his players despite falling short at the semifinal hurdle of the competition.

“I am very proud, very proud of the players, the way we have performed, I know that everyone knows South Africa now as a good playing team, and that is the most important thing,” he said.

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DR Congo head coach Sebastien Desabre admitted that he rued the chances that his team missed in their semifinal against Ivory Coast.

“We didn’t take advantage of our momentum,” rued Desabre.

“We tried to have all the offensive weapons to equalise, by changing the system, making substitutions, but unfortunately, it didn’t happen.”

Desabre applauded his Congolese warriors’ performance and effort despite the heartache from missing the final. He admitted that in the Elephants, they had formidable opponents.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Siyanda Xulu: The defender came into the team in place of Grant Kekana, who received a red card in Bafana Bafana’s last match and will be expected to put up a good defensive display.

Gael Kakuta: Known as DR Congo’s playmaker, Kakuta will be expected to make a difference in the team after only playing only 45 minutes in their last match due to not being fully fit.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

With the exception of a 2-2 World Cup qualifier in 2005, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo have shared a 1-0 scoreline three times in their last five meetings.

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