Football

South Africa face two do-or-die missions

South Africa coach Stuart Baxter said that his team have "knives to their throats" as they attempt to qualify for next year's World Cup.

Bottom-of-the-table Bafana Bafana (The Boys) must beat Senegal in Polokwane tomorrow morning (Singapore time) and in Dakar next Wednesday to snatch first place in Group D.

Senegal, who will have a fit-again Sadio Mane up front, top the table with eight points from four matches, Burkina Faso and Cape Verde have six from five, and South Africa four from four.

South Africa and Senegal have an extra match because the 2-1 win by Bafana last November was annulled due to Fifa finding the Ghanaian referee guilty of "match manipulation".

Africa will send five teams to Russia next year and three places are still up for grabs after Nigeria and Egypt secured places last month.

Tunisia hold a three-point lead over the Democratic Republic of Congo in Group A and need a draw at home against Libya to ensure qualification.

In Group C, a draw will also suffice for long-time World Cup absentees Morocco, who take a one-point advantage over the Ivory Coast to Abidjan.

England-born Baxter, who failed to lead South Africa to the 2006 World Cup during an earlier spell as coach, was upbeat this week despite a serious of blows, and the 64-year-old insists star-stacked Senegal can be beaten twice.

PRESSURE ON SENEGAL

"We have knives to our throats," he admitted.

"But maybe we can sneak into the World Cup through the back door. There is a lot of pressure on Senegal because almost everyone expects them to qualify. They do not want to throw it all away."

South Africa have lost two midfielders with Hlompho Kekana pulling out after his mother-in-law died and Thulani Serero shunning a call-up because he was not guaranteed a starting place.

However, Baxter cheered the arrival at training of goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, two days after officials said a fractured bone above his eye would sideline him for six weeks. - AFP

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