SA v Ivory Coast: players to watch

FILE IMAGE : Thulani Hlatshwayo (captain) and Stuart Baxter (coach) of Bafana Bafana.
FILE IMAGE : Thulani Hlatshwayo (captain) and Stuart Baxter (coach) of Bafana Bafana.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

Can Tyson and Tau outshine Zaha, Pepe of the Elephants?

South Africa

Thulani Hlatshwayo

The skipper has been around the block for quite some time and was one of the players that featured regularly during the qualifiers, alongside his Bidvest Wits teammate Buhle Mkhwanazi in central defence.

"Tyson" is dependable and against some of Africa's best attackers in the form of Ivory Coast's Nicolas Pepe, his guidance would be crucial. During the qualifiers, Bafana only conceded two goals in six matches in a group that included Nigeria, Libya and Seychelles.

In the tournament, Bafana would have to up their game considering they will be up against better strikers than that of Libya and Seychelles. All eyes would be on Hlatshwayo and company in defence to see if they can deal with the threats.

Percy Tau

Without a doubt, he's Bafana's best player at the moment and Africa is keen to see what he can deliver against the continent's best teams that are part of the tournament. Tau grabbed four goals in the qualifiers, notably his brace in the last match against Libya away.

While most would agree that he deserves better than to play in Belgium's second division, where the 25-year-old was on loan at St Gilloise from English Premiership side Brighton, this could be the stage he uses to attract better teams from across Europe since the work permit issues means he won't be able to play for Brighton even next season.

Nicolas Pepe from Ivory Coast
Nicolas Pepe from Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast

Wilfried Zaha

Since making his debut for the Elephants more than two years ago, the Crystal Palace winger has gone on to feature nine times, scoring two goals for the West Africans.

These are numbers the 26-year-old would be desperate to improve and make his mark, especially in the Afcon.

The one thing that's guaranteed is that the opponents, including Bafana, are not going to have an easy time on the park having to deal with his persistent, dangerous runs as he looks to get the goals.

Nicolas Pepe

Pepe, 24, was one of Africa's best players in Europe in the past season, with 22 goals and 11 assists in 38 appearances for French Ligue 1 side Lille.

In fact, Pepe was named Africa's best player in France for the 2018/19 campaign.

The award is named after the late Cameroon star, Marc Vivien Foe.

If reports are anything to go by, Pepe could be on his way to the English Premier League, with Manchester United and Arsenal apparently keen to sign him. T hat could spur him on to show what he can do by delivering a good showing in the Afcon. The winger will definitely be one of the Elephants' key players in what would be his first major tournament.

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