Do or die for Bafana … but maybe do and die

2013-09-07 00:00

TODAY is about as big as it gets for Bafana Bafana. Their five days of preparations will be put to the test when they host Botswana in an African Zone 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifier at Moses Mabhida Stadium.

Any hopes that Bafana have of making the trip to Brazil next year can only be entertained with victory today. And, if that happens, then Ethiopia will need to drop points against the Central African Republic (CAR) in Congo for Bafana to top the group and progress to the World Cup play-offs.

There may be one too many ifs and buts, but the good news for Bafana is that they have a fully fit squad available. There have been no reported injury concerns all week. Coach Gordon Igesund says this is the first time he has had that luxury in the build-up to a match.

Igesund, who will pick as attacking an outfit as possible today, acknowledged that he had selected his team already.

“I know who will be playing, but the players don’t yet,” he said at yesterday’s Mabhida training session. “It was very difficult to select the team. We have a lot of players playing at a very high level at the moment, but that’s part of football.”

With Botswana also in with a shout of qualification should they beat Bafana, Igesund said he had instructed his players to score as many goals as possible.

Tokelo Rantie appears set to start up front, and whether Igesund opts to use Bernard Parker as a second striker or an advanced midfielder will be interesting. The selection of Thulani Serero is also one to keep an eye on.

While Bafana are in the unenviable position of having their destiny out of their hands, Igesund acknowledged that a country with the stature of South Africa’s should be featuring in every World Cup.

“There is no reason why we can’t do it,” the coach told Weekend Witness. “In the next 18 to 24 months South Africa should be amongst the top 20 teams in the world and the top three in Africa. It is something that cannot happen straight away.”

Igesund also quelled any notions that today’s clash and whether or not Bafana qualify for Brazil would have any impact on his future as coach.

“Our focus is on the game, I am not here to talk about myself,” he said. “I am happy with the work I have done since becoming coach. Every morning I can wake up and look at myself in the mirror, and I can feel good about it.”

After all of the talk about attack this week, Bafana fans will be expecting goals. The ultimate travesty would be for Ethiopia to play their part in the equation only for Bafana to fail in theirs. “Botswana do have a couple of attacking threats, especially on the wings,” said Igesund. “We absolutely cannot go into this match with no respect for them, but we will go into it in a confident frame of mind.”

The match kicks off at 3.30 pm.

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