The South Africa Under-23 team goes into their clash with Tunisia on Friday night with more than a place in the semi-finals at stake.
The two nations met recently in back-to-back international friendly matches.
The first encounter on Friday, 4 September 2015 at Stade Olympique Elmenzah in Tunisia was won 4-0 by South Africa – with a Lebogang Mothiba brace, a goal from Zaid Patel and an own goal.
Three days later (Monday, 7 September) at the same venue, the North Africans turned the tables and registered a 2-1 win – Thabo Makhele scoring for South Africa.
Just under three months later the two countries meet again, this time in a crucial Group A match in the CAF u23 Africa Cup of Nations Tournament currently underway in Senegal.
“It’s going to be a very good game to play, one that everyone is looking forward to. This one means a lot because it’s a decider between Tunisia and us as to who will go to the semi-finals, and we all want to go there. It’s going to be tough though,” said midfielder Phumlani Ntshangase after the squad’s final training session ahead of the match.
“We have played them before but it was a friendly match and it is all in the past. This is a different ball game. The confidence of our team is very high – no one is scared because this is a big dream for us to go to Rio de Janeiro and we will give all we can. They are very big guys, they are very good in the air but we have to play our own game and we will then be able to handle them.”
South Africa is sitting on three points after defeating Zambia 3-2 earlier this week (Tuesday, 1 December). Tunisia also has three points but South Africa has a better goals difference.
“We played good football against Zambia and we should take that performance into the Tunisia match. If we play it on the ground, which is where we are strong, it will work for us and because of their size they not as fast as we are so we should take that advantage,” added Ntshangase.
“We must go for a win and not think of a draw. I was telling my teammates that it would be lovely to qualify outright with a win rather than looking at the permutations. A win will save us all that trouble and get us closer to our dream.”
The bulk of the South African squad that played in the friendly matches against Tunisia is in Senegal.
South Africa and Tunisia meet on Friday, 4 December 2015 at Stade Caroline Faye in Mbour.
Kickoff is at 19h00 South African time.