Swaziland
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IT’S DO OR DIE FOR SIHLANGU

DURBAN – Sihlangu are out to break the curse of not scoring a goal in close to a year outings when they visit Namibia later today.

The Dominic Kunene-led charges will be hoping that the duo of striker Sabelo ‘Sikhali’ Ndzinisa and attacking midfielder Philani ‘Mkasabuli’ Mkhontfo pass a late fitness test as they were not part of the squad during the recovery session, which was held at the Kings Park Sports Ground on Thursday morning, as they prepare for Namibia. ‘Sikhali’ sustained an injury during the Botswana match which Sihlangu lost 0-1 on Wednesday afternoon.

The result put Eswatini at the basement of Group A without a goal and a point, while Botswana sit at the summit with three points and are followed by hosts South Africa and Namibia who have a point each.Sihlangu will be trying to redeem themselves if they are to stand any chance of progressing even as the best runners-up in the group. It is a must-win or the match against host country South Africa’s Bafana Bafana as next week will be nothing but a mere formality. Eswatini are going to this match with one striker in the squad in Manzini Sea Birds’ Mthokozisi Gwebu as the duo of ‘Sikhali’ and Philani are doubtful.

The Green Mamba striker was stretchered off the opening match with a knee injury and did light training yesterday in a race against time. Mkhontfo watched the game from the stands. Coach Kunene will have to deploy his best arsenal against the Brave Warriors, who held Bafana to a 1-all draw. He must shy away from his defensive approach if he wants to progress to the next stage of the tournament and attack from all cylinders.

Refrain

He should also refrain from playing players out of their positions as it was the case on Wednesday,  where he played Mxolisi Mkhonto and Kwakhe Tfwala out of their natural positions, which back fired as the players were found wanting in the match. Kunene should also try to lift up the spirit among the players, which was visibly at its lowest during Wednesday’s training.

Meanwhile, Namibia will come all out for a win after the setback on Wednesday.  The Brave Warriors are not an easy side, considering that in the previous edition they were runners-up after they were defeated by Zambia in the final. They also drew against Bafana Bafana. They would be gunning for a win to continue with their form in the tournament.  Should Sihlangu suffer a loss, they would kiss goodbye to the 22nd Hollywoodbets COSAFA Cup before their last game against Bafana Bafana on Tuesday night. Kunene knows the nation is unhappy and he knows what must happen today for him to calm down the criticism he is receiving from the public and media alike- a win is the only acceptable result. He said it himself that this was a must-win but fitness issues for two key players in ‘Sikhali’ and Mkhontfo should worry him. ‘Sikhali’ was doing light training yesterday but it remains to be seen if he and Mkhontfo are available tonight.
“Going forward I will work from what we achieved here today (Wednesday) as I saw that the players created chances,” Kunene said in his first post-match interview.
decried
Yesterday morning, he said the spirit was high but decried ‘Sikhali’s injury even though the body language of the players said to the contrary. He said they were hopeful ‘Sikhali’ would be fit to play, otherwise he would have to look into other options.
Kunene also has to overturn a 2017 head-to-head 1-0 play-off defeat to Namibia in this tournament and these are opponents who have played every COSAFA edition and won it once in 2015, which was their best. Sihlangu is yet to reach the finals. This will be the ninth meeting between the two sides with Eswatini boasting a positive record of three wins to  their name, while Namibia were victorious just once, with four previous games ending in a share of the spoils. The other threat for Sihlangu is the five-game winless run since last June and also not being able score goals in their last seven matches, while Namibia have scored in their last four matches.