The South African national football team faces Senegal tonight in a crucial World Cup Qualifying playoff, with Senegal earning their place at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia if they win. If Bafana Bafana triumph, the World Cup berth will be in limbo until the two sides meet again.
The equation is simple: win both games, and Bafana Bafana is on the way to Russia next year. The team faces Senegal in two playoff games, and the boys need wins in both to have any chance of going to the Cup.
South African fans are all too aware that we have not qualified on our record for a World Cup in 15 years, only making the tournament in 2010 because we qualified automatically as the host.
South Africa is currently last in the group D standings, but two wins from two will mean the team finishes above everyone else. However, if South Africa loses tonight, it's all over, and Bafana Bafana misses yet another showpiece football tournament.
If history is anything to go by, there is a glimmer of hope: South Africa has not lost against Senegal since 2005.
Bafana coach Stuart Baxter said, "The players have worked really well; there has not been any shred of tension within the team."
Senegal has been boosted by the news that star player and mercurial Liverpool forward Sadio Mane is fit to face South Africa. His availability was in doubt following an injury he suffered in the English Premier League, but Baxter claims that doesn't worry the team unduly.
"We are not worried about Sadio Mane; he is a good player, yes, make no mistake –– but if we are to listen to what we hear of him, then we are a beaten team. "
"We respect him, yes, but we won't give him any special treatment. We have an array of good players, and if we put everything into this game, we have what it takes to win," Baxter added.
The match will be played tonight in Polokwane at the Peter Mokaba Stadium, with kick-off scheduled at 7pm.
The match is a replay –– FIFA insisted that the game be played again after Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey was found guilty of match manipulation and subsequently banned for life from all football activities by FIFA.
He awarded a penalty for a handball to South Africa in their 2-1 win, but replays showed that the ball had hit Senegal's Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly on the knee.