Taifa Stars face test of character
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NATIONAL soccer team, Taifa Stars will be targeting to stun and dethrone host South Africa in the 2017 COSAFA Cup quarter-final encounter at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Phokeng today.

Taifa Stars, who came into the tournament as guests at this year’s tournament, earned the right to face Bafana Bafana after they topped Group A.

In their last group stages match on Thursday, Taifa Stars were held to a 1-1 draw by Mauritius, which saw them finish on five points after three fixtures. Stars tied on points with Angola, who drew with Malawi in the other group match played simultaneously, but Tanzania advanced to the last eight due to a better goal difference.

Stars defeated Malawi, ‘The Flames’ 2-0 in their opening match on Sunday, before posting a barren draw against Angola on Tuesday and later being held to a 1-1 draw by Mauritius.

Salum Mayanga’s men will as well be looking to claim their first win against the host but definitely this is going to be a test of character for the team. Victory Stars against South Africa will see them face the winners of the Botswana vs Zambia clash on Wednesday.

Mayanga was quoted as saying that his charges were ready for the battle and will put up a stinging fight to stun the host. Mayanga’s squad will bank on Thomas Ulimwengu, Elias Maguri, Shiza Kichuya and Simon Msuva experience in the attacking role to ensure they gun down the defending champions.

Stars, motivated with their positive results in the group stage, will certainly be going to fight till their last drop in what billed to be tough but thrilling encounter. A win will be a great achievement for Mayanga, who has a clean record since he took charge of the team from Charles Boniface Mkwasa.

The former Mtibwa Sugar coach has surpassed record set by Brazilian tactician Marcio Maximo, who went unbeaten for five first matches in charge of Taifa Stars. Mayanga has so far won three matches and drawn three with no defeat.

However, it will not be an easy task for Stars because Bafana Bafana apart from being among the best teams in the continent, will as well have the home ground advantage.

South Africa under Coach Stuart Baxter will definitely be seeking to launch their title defence campaign positively. They will be eager to defend their title they won last year in Namibia as well seeking to become the first country to lift the trophy five times.

Bafana Bafana have won this competition on four occasions – 2002, 2007, 2008, 2016 – joining Zambia and Zimbabwe as the only three nations to achieve this feat.

According to records, the two sides have met only twice and South Africa have won both. In the first match, which was a friendly tie played on May 28, 2011 - Bafana Bafana won 1-0 at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam and the lone goal was scored by defender Siyabonga Sangweni. T

he only other meeting between the two teams was in 2002 when they played to a 1-1 draw in the four-nation Castle Lager Cup. South Africa triumphed 4-3 on penalties. Stars will look for its first win and revenge of the 1-0 defeat at home as well as the 4-3 penalties defeat in the hands of Bafana Bafana in front of their supporters.

Meanwhile, Bafana Bafana winger Ngoma has been forced to withdraw from the 2017 COSAFA Castle Cup squad due to a recurring knee injury. The technical team is still considering Ngoma’s replacement.

Ngoma was taken for an MRI scan on Thursday morning at the nearby hospital and it confirmed that he would not be able to play in the tournament. “It’s a shock to all of us, but unfortunately Ngoma will play no further part in this camp as he sustained an injury at training on Wednesday, that is not good news.

But it is an old injury. It is sad to lose a player of his caliber, but these things happen in football. I will meet with my technical team and decide which player to bring in. I can only wish him a speedy recovery because he is such a fantastic player,” said Bafana Bafana head coach Stuart Baxter.

Ngoma earned one Bafana Bafana in the international friendly match against Zambia earlier this year and was looking forward to making more appearances in the tournament.

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