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South Africa look to avert first round exit

DURBAN: South Africa has lost midfielders Kagisho Dikgacoi and Lerato Chabangu for today's crucial African Cup of Nations game against Angola, the latest in a series of injury setbacks for the tournament host.

Crystal Palace's Dikgacoi had a knee problem which flared up again and Chabangu hurt his groin, having injected a glimpse of much needed urgency for the struggling Bafana Bafana in the second half of Sunday's poor 0-0 draw with Cape Verde to start Group A.

"It's unfortunate, whenever a player is injured, it's a blow," coach Gordon Igesund said yesterday, "but we have enough depth in the team and have to get on with it."

Desperately short of midfield creativity and attacking threat at Soccer City against the inexperienced Cape Verdeans, the host's hopes of avoiding a humbling first round exit may now rest with striker Katlego Mphela and Ajax winger Thulani Serero - neither of whom are fully fit.

The pair played some part in the second half at Soccer City, but Mphela is out of shape after a lay off and Serero, Igesund said after the opening game, is struggling to play more than 35-40 minutes after his own injury problems.

South Africa's challenge is quickly unraveling at its home Cup of Nations and the team's struggles may have a knock-on effect for the tournament if fans become disheartened and stay away.

Also playing on the players' minds, Igesund said, is constant talk of the 1996 South African team, which won the African Cup on home soil the last time the country hosted the event.

"The expectations are very high and there's a lot of pressure on the team at the moment," Igesund said in Durban, where South Africa must beat Angola on Wednesday to get back on track. "There's a lot of talk about the '96 squad, it's right in our faces all the time."



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