Bafana’s superstars should prove too much for Botswana

2013-09-05 00:00

THE smart money says that Bafana Bafana will have no problem in seeing off Botswana in Saturday’s Africa Zone 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifier at Moses Mabhida Stadium.

Such is the quality in the Bafana squad, on paper anyway, that it is difficult to see them slipping up in what is their biggest match since February’s African Cup of Nations quarter-final defeat to Mali — a clash that also took place at Moses.

Gordon Igesund, now with all 23 of his players together, has assembled a squad that includes eight overseas-based players. Kagisho Dikgacoi (Crystal Palace) is playing in England’s top league, while Dean Furman, Bongani Khumalo (both Doncaster) and Tokelo Rantie (Bournemouth) are in the English Championship.

In Holland, Thulani Serero (Ajax Cape Town) and Kamohelo Mokotjo (PEC Zwolle) are both regulars at their Eredivisie (top flight) clubs while Anele Ngcongca (Racing Genk) is playing Europa league football at his Belgian club. Siyanda Xulu at Russia’s FC Rostov rounds up Bafana’s eight overseas-based players.

With such a core group constantly testing themselves against some of the finest players in Europe, Bafana should be in good shape.

For Serero, being involved at Ajax since 2011 has made him a much better player.

“I have learnt a lot over the past two years,” the attacking playmaker said before training yesterday. “I think I am a much more mature player. I am doing a lot more defensive work.”

Serero hasn’t featured for Bafana since Afcon, and he spent much of last season fighting injuries. But his eye was never far from what was going on in the camp during his time on the sidelines.

“I think we have done well since Afcon and haven’t lost too many games,” he said. “For me it is just really good to be back and now the most important thing is that I don’t get injured.”

Of course, Bafana could win 10-0 on Saturday and still not move out of their group should Ethiopia beat the Central African Republic in the Congo. Two 1-1 draws, against Ethiopia under Pitso Mosimane and then Botswana under caretaker coach Steve Komphela, left Bafana with a mountain to climb, and Igesund said this week that he would be “gutted” if Bafana won on Saturday and failed to progress to the next round of qualifying.

“You can’t control it, so we just need to focus on winning our game,” Serero said of the Ethiopia clash.

These sentiments were echoed by Bafana striker Tokelo Rantie, who has just become Bournemouth’s record transfer.

“We don’t have to worry. We must win our game and that is all. Hopefully results will go our way,” he said, adding that he didn’t feel any added pressure for Bafana since making the move to England.

“There is always pressure, but I have learnt how to control it,” said Rantie. “If you let it get the better of you then it becomes difficult to perform.”

Igesund has given nothing away this week regarding team selection, but he has made it clear that Saturday will be an all-out attacking assault on Botswana, suggesting that the likes of Rantie and Serero could well feature.

The match kicks off at 3.30 pm.

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