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Sports News of Saturday, 15 June 2019

Source: Goal.com

Ghana vs South Africa: Squad news and match preview

In the United Arab Emirates on Saturday, Ghana and South Africa will face off in a friendly game as part of their preparations for the Africa Cup of Nations finals, which begins on June 21.

While the Black Stars are putting their house together ahead of Group F encounters against reigning champions Cameroon, Benin and Guinea-Bissau, Bafana Bafana cannot afford to leave any stone unturned, having been drawn in what some regard as the 'Group of Death', which also features favourites and two-time champions Cote d'Ivoire, 1976 winners Morocco and neighbours Namibia.

Saturday's match will be Ghana's final warm-up game for the continental showpiece following a 1-0 loss to Namibia on Sunday, but South Africa will have one more opportunity to tie any loose ends as they are billed to play Angola on Tuesday.

Importantly, both coaches will have a first opportunity to assess their teams on the pitch after naming of their final 23-man squads for the tournament.

Despite having been on a rebuilding mission since his reappointment as Ghana coach in 2017, Appiah's starting XI is far from settled.

With Leicester defender Daniel Amartey and Udinese youngster Nicholas Opoku out of the Afcon party due to injury, there is little certainty about what the first-choice centre-back pair will look like.

Worryingly, the issue of uncertainty runs through the team as it is unclear who gets the starting nod at left-back, who compliments Newcastle ace Christian Atsu on the wings, who leads the attack and how Deportivo Alaves' Mubarak Wakaso, Atletico Madrid's Thomas Partey and Inter Milan's Kwadwo Asamoah will be put together in midfield.

It is also not clear what formation will be used at Afcon amid rumours that the likely deployment of Asamoah in midfield will force Appiah to ditch his preferred two-top system in order to accommodate a third man in midfield.

Saturday's selection is expected to give a clearer picture of Ghana's set-up for their Afcon.

Like Ghana, South Africa's final Afcon squad was affected by major player withdrawals.

Veteran goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune could not even make the final squad due to injury, while Rivaldo Coetzee controversially left camp to attend to his sick mother.

Montpellier midfielder Keagan Dolly also pulled out due to a groin injury after turning out for Bafana Bafana in the Cosafa Cup, while Nikola Tavares and Joel Untersee could not join camp despite being listed in the 30-man provisional squad.

Belgium-based Percy Tau undoubtedly remains Bafana Bafana's danger man for Afcon, but performance of the likes of midfielder Bongani Zungu will play a huge part in determining how far the team goes in Egypt.

“The practice match should be an interesting game and should test us for Afcon because Ghana is a strong side and will give us an indication on what to expect against Ivory Coast. We are excited and ready,” the Amiens man told Safa.net ahead of Saturday's fixture.

Match Preview

With just a week to the start of the Afcon, this fixture will be nothing but a classical friendly as both teams will want to take things lightly to avoid any disruptive late injuries.

For South Africa, it will be an opportunity to face a West African opposition to strategise for Cote d'Ivoire, whom Ghana are thought to share a playing style with.

The Black Stars, on the other hand, are ultimately eyeing a confidence-boosting win ahead of their departure for the tournament following the shocking 1-0 loss to Namibia.

South Africa and Ghana's last meeting came in the form of a 2016 friendly, which ended 1-1 at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.