Niang warns of Keita Balde
Posted: 7 November 2017 Time: 19:45
Former Mamelodi Sundowns striker Mame Niang has given his insight into what Bafana Bafana can expect when they take on Senegal in their must-win back-to-back World Cup qualifiers.
Bafana Bafana will be up against it when they face The Lions of Teranga in their final two 2018 World Cup qualifiers in Polokwane and Dakar in the coming days.
The first tie will see the sides face-off at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on Friday evening (19h30), in a replay of the match that saw the hosts win 2-1 at the same venue under former coach Shakes Mashaba in November last year.
In order to remain within reach of Russia, Stuart Baxter's side will have to carve out a result starting with the home leg, and repeat the feat at the 60 000-seater Stade Leopold Sedar Senhor in Dakar next Tuesday evening (21h30).
With the first match fast approaching, Niang has warned against solely focusing on Liverpool attacker Sadio Mane, who was just last week declared fit to play. He believes Monaco forward Diao Balde Keita, who has scored three goals in his last three Ligue 1 matches, could be the real dangerman on Friday.
"I think Senegal are really coming for three points because I see the newspapers in Senegal are going crazy," the lanky frontman tells KickOff.com.
"Having Mane back is obviously a big boost because the whole country was looking forward to that, but I think Bafana should be more worried about Keita Balde, whose been the main threat in recent games.
"Obviously Diafra Sakho is back and so is M'Baye Niang, who made his debut in the 2-0 win over Cape Verde last month and played a key part in both goals. I think attacking-wise we could hurt Bafana, but they also have questions to ask."
The 33-year-old says a different ball game can be expected from the last time the two sides met in Polokwane last year, with Aliou Cisse likely to try and play on the counter-attack with pacey players up front.
"I think it's going to be a tactical game. Senegal won't come and press Bafana out, that's my feeling. I'm guessing they will try to play Keita Balde and Sadio Mane on the break because they have pace," he adds.
A win for the West African giants will see them make only their second ever World Cup finals appearance, with their first having come back in 2002 when they went as far as the quarter-finals.
Niang says it would be a major achievement for the country to qualify, and says the belief back home is that the current crop of players is the best since the group of 2002, so the expectancy of a win over Bafana is high.
"You must see the vibe in Dakar, people are going crazy there. We've qualified once and we went to the quarter-final, and this is the generation that's as good as the one from 2002, so there's a lot of expectation on them," he says.
"Everyone thought we could win the last AFCON  but we lost to Cameroon on penalties and then they went on to win it, so they are confident about this team."
Having turned out for five different South African clubs during his career, Niang has a word of advice on how Stuart Baxter's men can overcome the Teranga Lions.
"I think Bafana must just play quick football because that's the only way you can beat Senegal. You must know we only have quick players going forward, but at the back we have tall, big guys," advises the Kongvinger striker.
"If Senegal decide to press and Bafana try to play long balls then it's not going to work, because our team is bigger in physical size than Bafana. If they use their South African flair then they will be able to get out with a win, I think."