Bafana back in town

2013-09-03 00:00

THE boys are back in town. Well, 13 of them are. That is the number of Bafana Bafana’s 23-man squad who arrived in Durban yesterday to begin preparations for Saturday’s crucial 2014 World Cup qualifier against Botswana at Moses Mabhida Stadium.

The five Orlando Pirates players who featured in Sunday’s CAF Champions League defeat to Zamalek in Egypt will join the squad this afternoon. Overseas-based players such as Anele Ngcongca (Genk) and Thulani Serero (Ajax Amsterdam) arrive this morning. Dean Furman, Kagisho Dikgacoi and Bongani Khumalo arrived from England to join the team yesterday.

It is all part of a mammoth week for Bafana. Victory against Botswana will only be enough for Gordon Igesund’s charges to progress out of Group A should Ethiopia draw or lose to the Central African Republic in Congo. That match will kick off at the same time as Bafana’s clash. The 10 African group winners will then play five home and away play-offs, with the winners all booking their ticket to Brazil.

It is out of Bafana’s hands, but Igesund is exceedingly confident, and he has said that he won’t be paying any attention to the Ethiopia score during his side’s match.

“For us it is simple: we need to win the game. It doesn’t matter what happens in the other game, nothing changes for us,” Igesund told The Witness yesterday.

“We will continue to play attacking football regardless of the score. And if we get some good news at the end of the game, then that will be fantastic.”

Igesund acknowledged that he would be “gutted” if his side won on Saturday but still failed to win the group.

Bafana thought they had no chance of qualifying after they went down 2-1 to Ethiopia in their last qualifier. A subsequent Fifa ruling stripped the group leaders of three log points for fielding an ineligible player in a previous match against Botswana, and Bafana were suddenly back in with a shout.

“The door has been opened for us. We have a second chance and we are going to take it,” said Igesund. “This is as important a game as we will have.”

Igesund said that his side would be using the week to focus on set pieces as well as finishing.

“I have been pleased with the way we have been creating chances in our past few games,” he said. “I don’t want to reveal too much, but I can tell you that we will be playing an attacking game.”

Team captain and goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune echoed Igesund’s sentiments, but warned the rest of the side not to take Botswana lightly.

“The squad is looking very confident and we are obviously highly motivated,” said Khune. “But we must expect a tough game. Botswana are a quality side and we can’t afford to take them lightly.”

Those could be wise words, considering that the Zebras could finish top of the group themselves should they beat Bafana and Ethiopia lose.

Igesund added that he had a fully fit squad available.

Saturday’s match kicks off at 3.30 pm. Tickets are available through Computicket for R50 and R100.

Saturday’s fixtures

SA v Ethiopia

CAR v Ethiopia

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