Mokoena seeks World Cup boost with FA Cup win

2010-05-13 13:14

Aaron Mokoena wants to provide South Africa with some pre-World Cup

joy by leading underdogs Portsmouth to a shock FA Cup final win over Premier

League champions Chelsea on Saturday.

While his compatriots are dreaming of the forthcoming World Cup in

South Africa, Bafana Bafana captain Mokoena is hoping they will briefly turn

their attention toward an incredible story that could reach an emotional

conclusion at Wembley this weekend.

Portsmouth have remained rock bottom of the Premier League since

the start of the season amid a campaign of financial farce and off-field

politics that left players unpaid for four months of the year.

Mokoena has watched in bemusement as Portsmouth have gone through

four owners, racking up debts in excess of £145 million (about R1.6 billion),

culminating in administration and relegation to the Championship.

The only bright spot in a campaign scarred by financial chaos has

been Portsmouth’s remarkable run to the cup final, with the high points being a

win at local rivals Southampton and a surprise semifinal triumph against


Mokoena said: “It is a dream come true to take part in an FA Cup

final. I have been involved in a few semis before but to be in the final is

amazing, especially before the World Cup.

“The people in South Africa are over the moon about us getting to

Wembley again. Most are now Portsmouth supporters, I think. They are really

delighted and I know a few are coming to the game.

“It has been an incredible path in difficult circumstances and

being in the cup final has shown what incredible character we have as players –

it has been a fairytale for us.

“We have kept doing what we are doing and trying not to allow

whatever happens off the field to affect us.

“The cup has always been there for us but it was not until we went

through the quarterfinals that we actually thought, ‘We can do this’.

“I know we are going to play against one of the world’s best teams

in Chelsea but it depends on who shows up on the day.

“We have great respect for Chelsea, they are an experienced side

who have some of the best players in the world, but this cup means so much for


Mokoena was the man who got the ball rolling for Pompey in the cup

as his header in the final minute of extra time at Coventry in the third round

earned a hard-fought victory that summed up their spirit.

Mokoena acknowledges that Pompey, who won the cup in 2008, have

also had their share of luck on the road to Wembley.

Birmingham’s Liam Ridgewell saw an effort that crossed the

goal-line wrongly ruled out in the quarterfinals and

Michael Dawson’s slip on the Wembley turf in the semifinal victory

over Tottenham allowed Frederic Piquionne to score.

Mokoena added: “It feels like we are fortunate in the cup – we keep

doing well. I remember that late goal at Coventry.

“We have had situations where we have been unlucky in the league

yet amazingly we keep doing well in the cup.

“The cup is the only thing we have, we were not going to give it up

and we are not going to give it up against Chelsea.”

Saturday’s game provides Mokoena the chance to tussle with Premier

League Golden Boot winner and two-time African Footballer of the Year Didier


Drogba has plundered 29 goals to lead Chelsea to their first title

in four years but Mokoena is confident he can subdue the Ivory Coast star.

“Didier is a fantastic player, I have played against him many times

and he has shown what he is capable of season after season. For me it will be a

great challenge and I am looking forward to it,” Mokoena said.

“He is one of the best, he stands out there. He won the Golden Boot

and that shows what kind of player he is but playing against individuals of this

quality is a dress rehearsal for the World Cup.”

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