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Five reasons why South Africa can beat Senegal

South Africa have already beaten Senegal once at home in this World Cup qualification campaign, though that came under dubious circumstances that has led to FIFA ordering a replay of the game.

It will be played at Polokwane, the same venue as their previous 2-1 victory that was assisted by Ghana referee Joseph Lamptey, and Bafana Bafana must win to have any chance of reaching the finals in Russia next year.

KweséESPN provides five reasons why they can be victorious at home:

The quality is there

Bafana Bafana might not always show it, but they have the quality in their squad to compete with the very best in Africa. They just need to be more consistent in their performances.

Without the injured Itumeleng Khune, the goalkeeper position is a concern, but for the rest of the team they have strong options in every positions and will have a bench that can come in and change the game if necessary.

Many of their players are now in form, unlike the twin defeats to Cape Verde in early September when most were coming in cold from pre-season and had not hit their stride yet.

Do Bafana have the players to hurt Senegal? Absolutely.

Confidence

The 3-1 victory over Burkina Faso last month showed all the best qualities of the team as they sliced through what is a very good defence with ease on numerous occasions.

That result, and how they dismantled the Burkinabe in the game, will have brought a lot of confidence and belief to the players and they are a side that thrives when they play positive, attacking football.

Senegal had two goes at Burkina Faso and failed to win either game, but Bafana picked apart the latter after an early goal put them on the front foot.

They had showed the same confidence in a fantastic victory over Nigeria in Uyo in June, when the 2-0 scoreline belied their dominance in the game and flattered the Super Eagles.

This Bafana team can play. 

Senegal will sit back

Senegal know they only need a draw in Polokwane to book their place in Russia and so are unlikely to play expansive, attacking football, but rather look to soak up the Bafana pressure.

It is not necessarily a good tactic for a Senegalese side that has shown mental frailty in the past in the big matches and stumbled with the winning post in sight.

They have only been to the World Cup once before, in 2002, a poor return given the quality of their sides down the years.

The knowledge of past failures could keep them in their shell, no matter what coach Aliou Cisse tells them before the game, and could play right into Bafana's hands.

Altitude a factor

Polokwane has an elevation of some 4,300 feet and while not quite the same as Johannesburg, it will be energy-sapping for the Senegalese, most of who are used to playing at just about sea level in Europe.

It is quick to dismiss altitude as a non-issue, but any player who has experienced its crippling effects during matches, particularly in the final 20 minutes, will know its true impact.

Senegal are a fit team of professionals, but playing at altitude is not something you can prepare for in a matter of days and it will definitely affect them to some degree. 

Just how much, and whether they can get themselves ahead on the game by the time their legs feel heavy and their lungs empty, remains to be seen.

It will be a catch-22 for coach Cisse on whether they try to make a fast start and weather the physical effects later, or try to keep something in the tank for the end of the game. 

Bafana have only lost one of their six internationals in Polokwane and that was to an excellent Chile side in 2009 who got their scoring done early and then managed to hold on.  

Knowing they have done it before

A lot of the emphasis in that disputed 2-1 victory for last year has been placed on the actions of referee Lamptey.

And while he certainly did aid Bafana Bafana with a penalty that should never have been given, it is often forgotten that for large parts of that game South Africa more than matched their moments.

It was only as they sat back and tried to hold on in the final 30 minutes that Senegal were really on top and applying the pressure, and even then managed just a single goal.

Bafana also had the better of a 2015 African Nations Cup finals pool match that ended 1-1 when they had enough opportunities to win the game comfortably.

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