Depleted Bafana will hold their own – Igesund

2013-07-10 17:37

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A depleted 20-man squad would acquit themselves well in the Southern African Cosafa Cup, Bafana Bafana head coach Gordon Igesund has said in Johannesburg.

“I am familiar with the ability of all the players in the Bafana contingent and have full confidence in their ability to hold their own against any opposition they might encounter in Zambia,” said Igesund shortly before the team’s departure for Lusaka today.

The coach remained upbeat and was imbued with characteristic confidence, despite the team being decimated by the refusal of some PSL clubs to release their players for the tournament.

Having received a bye into the quarterfinals, would Bafana open their programme with a game against Namibia on Saturday afternoon.

Victory would mean Bafana coming up against either hosts Zambia or Mozambique in the semi-finals next Wednesday, with the final due to take place on Saturday, July 20.

While a game against 2012 African Nations Cup champions Zambia might appear the more daunting obstacle, Igesund said he was not jumping the gun and looking at a potential semi-final at this stage.

“Namibia have two good victories – over Mauritius and the Seychelles – already under their belt in earlier Cosafa Cup matches and it would be foolhardy to take them for granted,” Igesund said.

“What is more, they recently held the current African Nations Cup holders, Nigeria, to a 1-1 draw – and that is sufficient warning to avoid any complacency.”

There was not a great deal separating Bafana and “The Brave Warriors”, as Namibia were known. In previous international matches, South Africa had won twice, lost once and two games ended in draws.

Bafana’s final contingent was unrecognisable from the squad initially announced and, in some instances, Igesund had had to find further replacements for his replacements.

As the Cosafa Cup was not being played on dates assigned by Fifa for international matches, the original Bafana squad did not include overseas-based players.

Igesund’s first-choice appeared to be the strongest-available from those players who plied their trade in the PSL – with the notable exception of Orlando Pirates players preparing for their crucial African Champions League encounter against Leopards FC of the Congo.

The Bafana coach wanted to use the Cosafa Cup as part of the preparation for the critical World Cup qualifying game against Botswana early in September.

Instead, the squad did not include a single player in the starting line-up from the last World Cup qualifying game, which ended in a 2-1 defeat against Ethiopia.

Igesund, however, had been loathe to criticise the PSL clubs and said, according to the rules laid down, “it was within their right” to withhold the release of players for the Cosafa Cup.

“What is more, it gives the newcomers who will now get the opportunity of playing at international level, the chance to make their mark as permanent Bafana fixtures in the future.”

Central defender Bevan Fransman, would be joining the Bafana squad in Zambia only after the Namibia match as he was required by SuperSport United for their pre-season friendly against Manchester City on Sunday.

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