Cape Town - For Bafana Bafana it doesn't get much bigger than this Friday in Benguela, Angola.
Kick-off is at 16:30 SA time.
After missing out on the 2014 Soccer World Cup in Brazil, qualification for Russia 2018 is seen as critical for what has been a largely underperforming South African national side in recent years.
But the first step in achieving that goal is beating Angola, the 98th-ranked side in world football, over two legs.
South Africa are currently ranked 75th in the world, and their history against the Angolans on the biggest stage since the victorious AFCON 1996 campaign is encouraging.
Bafana beat Angola 1-0 in the group stages of that tournament through a Mark Williams strike.
The sides met again in the groups stages of the continental showpiece two years later in Burkina Faso - this time playing out to a 0-0 draw.
That result would not prevent Bafana from marching into the final - where they lost 2-0 to Egypt - and surrendered their AFCON crown in the process.
In 2000 the sides competed in two AFCON qualifiers - Bafana winning 1-0 at FNB Stadium through a Shaun Bartlett goal before a 2-2 draw in Luanda the following year. Helman Mkhalele scored both goals for Bafana that day.
Another AFCON group meeting took place in Ghana 2008, and midfielder Elrio van Heerden scored an 87th minute goal to secure a 1-1 draw for Bafana. Carlos Alberto Parreira's side would go on to finish bottom of Group D, while Angola edged their way into the quarter-finals.
In 2013, Gordon Igesund's side had no problem against Angola on home soil. A 2-0 win at Moses Mabhida Stadium through goals from Siya Sangweni and Lehlohonolo Majoro got the ball rolling for Igesund's men, but they would go on to lose a heartbreaking penalty shootout to Mali at the same venue in the quarter-finals.
However, the most recent meetings between the sides do not make good reading for Bafana. Just last month Angola knocked Bafana out of CHAN 2016 contention with a 3-2 two-legged triumph despite Bafana winning the second leg 2-1 at home.
But CHAN qualifiers and World Cup qualifiers are two very different things, and history suggests that when it matters most, Bafana have the edge over their southern African rivals.
Let's hope that history repeats itself on Friday.
Next Tuesday's second leg takes place in Durban at Moses Mabhida Stadium. Kick-off is at 19:00.
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