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Mamelodi Sundowns defender Grant Kekana. Picture: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
Mamelodi Sundowns defender Grant Kekana. Picture: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

While Bafana Bafana are expected, for a change, to have a fairly easy time qualifying for the African Cup of Nations (Afcon), Morocco will be a real test for Hugo Broos’ men.

Bafana kick off their Group K 2023 Afcon qualifying campaign against the highly ranked north African side at Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat on Thursday (kick-off 9pm, SA time).

Group K has been left with only three teams, including Liberia, after Zimbabwe were barred from participation in the qualifiers due to a Fifa suspension related to government interference in the sport.

This means if 69th-ranked Bafana beat minnows Liberia, ranked 149th,  home and away, they will book their spot at the continental showpiece to be staged in Ivory Coast in June and July 2023.

While their qualification path was made easier by Zimbabwe’s expulsion, Morocco are an opponent Bafana need if they want a challenge.

SA  coach Hugo Broos has been preaching that he doesn’t want to play easy teams and Morocco,  ranked 24th in the world and second in Africa,  definitely don’t fall into that category. The Belgian tactician will be able to assess how far his team has grown through the clash.

The north Africans, who reached the quarterfinals of the Nations Cup in Cameroon early in 2022, have announced a strong squad including a number of their European-based stars.

Their arsenal includes Paris Saint-Germain’s Achraf Hakimi, Adel Taarabt of Benfica, Sevilla striker Youssef En-Nesyri and Noussair Mazraoui, who recently switched from Ajax Amsterdam to Bayern Munich.

Mamelodi Sundowns defender Grant Kekana, a first-time call-up, has pleaded with South Africans to be patient with Bafana while Broos tries to build a young team.

“I would like our supporters to stay positive and be patient with us – we are a young group but we have done well,” Kekana said.

“Even though we were unfortunate not to qualify for the World Cup, we are a good group of players and a group that is willing to represent the country well.”

Kekana believes SA have prepared well for the Moroccans.

“The intensity at training has been good, I think the efforts the lads have been putting in has been good and everyone has been raising their hands,” Kekana said.

“It’s difficult to see who is going to start, but it’s good to see  everyone is in good spirits and willing to push and represent the country well.”

Al Ahly star Percy Tau will be the key player in attack for SA as they attempt to break down Morocco’s notoriously robust and organised defence.

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