Facing the home team is “inspiring”, as South Africa coach Stuart Baxter mentioned. Yet, it’s going to be a complicated mission for Percy Tau and his teammates in front of expected “full house” at the Cairo International Stadium on Saturday (6 July 2019) night.
South Africa reached the Round of 16 in the very last second as the fourth of four best third placed teams, by virtue of goal difference over Kenya. They have now to face favourites and hosts Egypt with a place in the quarter finals at stake.
After a win and two defeats in the group stage, Bafana Bafana had to wait till the last minute of the group stage matches to know their fate, before setting a date with hosts and record seven-time champions Egypt, a side they lost to in the 1998 final in Ouagadougou. And if they need to cause an upset they must hope Tau would be at his best once again.
The 25-year old forward is the man behind the 1996 champions only goal in the tournament till date. He assisted Bongani Zungu to score what proved to be the winner against Namibia. South Africa also suffered losses to 1-0 defeats to Cote d’Ivoire and Morocco.
Tau, formerly on the books of South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns, has played every minute of South Africa’s group stage matches and was always the threat to their opponents.
“Zungu doesn’t know how to celebrate. If I scored I was going to be dancing. I hope to do that in the coming matches”, Tau said after producing a “Man of the Match” performance against Namibia.
Tau had a season to remember with his Belgian club Union Saint-Gilloise, where he plays on loan from English Premier League side Brighton and Hove Albion. He scored 13 goals and assisted as many in 35 games in all competitions this season, being named the club’s most valuable player in the campaign. And now he has vowed to shift that brilliance to international level.
“I’m at a stage in my career where I want to develop and get better. I feel I’m at my peak. I’m trying to see where I can learn‚ and judge myself. I’m just looking at it as a test where I can actually give it all and get better‚ and try and understand international level better.
“This is my first international competition with the national team. So for sure I’ll look at it as a positive experience for me”, Tau confirmed.
Despite admitting his side is going to be the underdogs against Egypt, Baxter hopes that Tau-inspired Bafana Bafana can cause one of AFCON history’s biggest shocks. “The pressure is on Egypt. For them, it’s a national disaster if we beat them; for us it’s going to be just disappointing. So we will play and we know we can cause an upset”, the Englishman said before the match.
But to do so, he will hope his danger man Tau will be at his best yet again.