Nato & Ngalande in AFCON action
Tough tests ahead for Nato, Ngalande
Two Bidvest Wits players will have the chance to do duty for their national sides in the final round of 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers this weekend.
Ofentse Nato of Botswana and Robin Ngalande of Malawi will both be looking to play a leading role for their teams in their respective first leg matches, but it will not be easy going.
‘The Zebras’, who will have Nato in the heart of their midfield, are away to West African side Mali in Bamako on Saturday evening.
Botswana made history by qualifying for their first ever Africa Cup of Nations a year ago, but their performance at the 2012 finals in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea reflected a lack of major tournament experience as they lost all three group games.
Included in that hat-trick of losses was a 2-1 reverse to Mali, who went on to finish third in the tournament after defeating Ghana in the bronze playoff.
The West Africans are presently high on confidence and reached 32 on FIFA’s latest release of world rankings – their highest ever position.
Nato is sure to have a tough battle in midfield as he comes up against Seydou Keita – who will captain ‘The Eagles’ due to the absence of regular skipper Cedric Kante – as well as former Olympique Lyon and Real Madrid star Mahamadou Diarra, who has earned a recall.
As for Ngalande’s Malawi, they have arguably an even tougher assignment as they are away to four-time Africa champions Ghana in Accra.
‘The Flames’ last appeared at the AFCON in 2010, when they memorably thrashed World Cup qualifiers Algeria 3-0, but they face an uphill task if they are to make a return to the tournament in 2013.
Young striker Ngalande may not be handed a start against the Black Stars by coach Kinnah Phiri, but he could be used an impact player off the bench, especially after many of the regular first teamers disappointed in a 1-0 loss to Liberia in a friendly on Tuesday night.
If Ngalande gets on the pitch, he will have the chance to pit his skills against classy Ghanaian defenders such as Samuel Inkoom, Isaac Vorsah and Harrison Afful.