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STATS: Confederation Cup final!

As far as Friday nights go, 20 May 2022 will be a season-saving one for Orlando Pirates.

Knocked out at the first hurdle of the MTN8 and then the second hurdle of the Nedbank Cup, they have also had an underwhelming league campaign. All things considered, the highest they can finish on the league table is 2nd (if results are favourable), but in the same breath, the lowest they can finish is 8th (if results are unfavourable). 

The CAF Confederation Cup, in which they have been more solid than spectacular, presents the last hope of silverware for Mandla Ncikazi, Fadlu Davids and their band of treasure-hunting Buccaneers. It’s also the last hope for a fanbase that has suffered disproportionately over the last decade.

1 – Pirates have won just one trophy in the last eight seasons (the 2020/21 MTN8) and two since they were last crowned PSL champions 10 seasons ago (also the 2014 Nedbank Cup)

It has not been for a lack of trying, as this is a club familiar with going deep into Cup competitions. Yet, the decade has been characterised by many near misses. This weekend will represent Pirates’ 11th Cup final since winning the PSL title, which is more finals than any other side in that period. That equates to an average of one Cup final per year, something one would expect of a big team. They don’t have much to show for those Cup final appearances except heartbreak.

2 – Pirates have won just two of the 10 Cup finals over the last 10 years, losing the other eight to six different sides.

Even after all the misfortune over the years, destiny is in their own hands come Friday. After all, the majority of this squad will have the MTN8 triumph as the lasting Cup final memory in their minds. Few of them will have been part of the previous heartbreaks. In fact, Happy Jele is the only surviving member to have featured in the 2012 CAFCL final. Instead, the overall history of the club in CAF competitions should be on their minds more than anything.

4 – Pirates have reached their 4th CAF final (1995 ACCC, 2012/13 CAFCL, 2014/15 CAFCC and 2021/22 CAFCC excl. Super Cups) – more than any other South African side.

Of course, there are no guarantees that CAF pedigree will translate to success on Friday. After all, they’ve won just one of those prior finals, so their 2021/22 CAF form may be a better yardstick with which to peg expectations. Despite a 3-2 loss to Al Ittihad early in the Group stages, Pirates have been otherwise defensively sound. They’ve failed to score in three of their last five games but will be banking on their defensive form to set up a strong foundation for them.

9 – Pirates have kept nine clean sheets in their CAFCC matches this season, the highest number of clean sheets they’ve ever kept in a CAF campaign.

Like Pirates, their opponents tomorrow finished as Group winners in the group stages. Like Pirates, they find themselves 7th on the league table. Like Pirates, they’ve played 10 games in the space of 2 months, and both teams have a somewhat similar record in that period – Pirates W3 D4 L3, while RS Berkane’s record reads W4 D3 L3. It’s a neutral venue on the day, but the Moroccans’ away form will be encouraging for Pirates. They’re not won an away match since October last year, drawing seven and losing the same number since then.

But Friday night may be different.

1 – This will be the first time ever that a PSL side faces Moroccan opposition in a CAF final.

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