Shakes Mashaba’s two-pronged mission

2014-08-31 15:01

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This afternoon, Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba will be negotiating an awkward meeting of two jobs.

Today, he guides the SA Under-20 (Amajita) side against Cameroon in Polokwane in the final hurdle to qualify for next year’s African Youth Championships.

On Friday, he will take charge of Bafana Bafana, who will play Sudan in their first step to qualify for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco.

“We have done well so far and the first 45?minutes will be crucial,” said Mashaba.

He ends his role as the Under-20 head coach this afternoon.

“Cameroon is a very good side in terms of their combination play in the middle and they are also aggressive. We have worked on set pieces against us for us to counter those situations.”

Mashaba will leave Polokwane immediately after the game to join Bafana as they report for camp later today.

Tied at 1-1 from the first leg, Amajita need a goalless draw or a win to qualify for the final tournament in Senegal in March where the semifinalists will automatically earn spots at next year’s Fifa Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand.

As Mashaba will be guiding Amajita in Polokwane, his Bafana assistant, Owen da Gama, will be spying on Sudan 1?000km away in Lusaka, Zambia.

The Falcons of Jediane, as Sudan is known, will meet Zambia in a warm-up game this afternoon, four days before their meeting with Bafana.

Mashaba conceded that he knew little about Sudan but refused to give away much on how his technical staff was gathering information about Bafana’s less-fancied opponents.

“We don’t know much about them but we’ve been doing our homework, checking where their players come from and how they play. We need to do some of the things secretly so we can’t reveal everything at this stage.”

Mashaba has called up 34 players?–?with five from his current Under-20 team?–?but only 25 will be on the chartered flight to Sudan that leaves Joburg on Wednesday and returns a day after the game.

The remaining nine players will join Bafana Bafana in Cape Town for the qualifier against defending African champions, Nigeria, at the Cape Town Stadium next Wednesday.

Most of Sudan’s players ply their trade in the domestic league while Mashaba’s squad boasts players with Afcon and World Cup experience such as goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune and defender Anele Ngcongca.

It is inevitable that Sudan will call up most of the squad from local giants Al-Merreikh and Al-Hilal, who are both basking in glory after recent successes on the continent.

Al-Hilal defeated Egypt’s Zamalek 2-1 in the CAF Champions League last Saturday, where Sudan’s national team players Mohamed Bashir and Bakri Almadina were instrumental in the victory. But the Sudanese club did not advance to the knockout stage.

Also last weekend, Al-Merreikh ended a 20-year trophy drought by lifting the Council for East and Central Africa Football Association’s Kagame Cup in Rwanda last Sunday.

After playing Sudan and Nigeria, Bafana will resume their qualifying campaign against Congo-Brazzaville in October.

Congo was reinstated in the competition after Rwanda were disqualified for fielding an ineligible player in their preliminary fixture.

The group winners and runners-up, as well as the best third-placed side across the seven groups, will advance to next year’s finals in Morocco.

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