Igesund plays it safe ahead of opening

2013-01-18 00:00

BAFANA Bafana coach Gordon Igesund already knows his starting lineup for tomorrow’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tournament opener against the Cape Verde Islands at the National Stadium in Soweto. He has done for some time.

“The squad and the starting line-up has been decided. I knew a week ago who would be playing,” Igesund told The Witness at the stadium yesterday.

“You may have seen the starting 11 on the field together at some stage in the build-up, but you may not have. I have to be very careful with what I let on to other coaches.”

Good news for the coach is that he has a fully fit squad available, with striker Katlego Mphela and playmaker Thulani Serero both coming through Bafana’s last two warm-up matches unscathed and ready to play 90 minutes.

Whether or not Serero starts or is used as an impact player off the bench remains to be seen. Igesund’s persistence with Moroka Swallows midfielder Lerato Chabangu could complicate that matter.

And, while Mphela has proved his fitness in time for tomorrow, Bernard Parker’s PSL form this season will surely have given Igesund food for thought if he opts to play with one striker, as he is expected to do.

But while Igesund is remaining mum on his match-day 11, he did confirm he is feeling the pressure after being given a mandate by Safa to reach the semi-finals of the competition.

“Of course I am feeling the pressure, but so is everybody,” he said. “Any coach who is at this tournament has the same pressures.”

Bafana will be looking to emulate Clive Barker’s 1996 side that won the tournament on home soil, but a lack of ability in front of goal and a steady decline down the Fifa rankings over the last year has left South African football fans and critics less than optimistic about their team’s chances of even progressing through the group stages.

Not Igesund, though.

“Our mindset has always been very positive. We haven’t had a lot of time to prepare, but that is the same for everybody. We are ready for this,” he said.

“I firmly believe that if we start scoring goals we can go all the way and win.”

But, that might be easier said than done, with Bafana having failed to score in five of their last eight outings under Igesund.

While very little is known about Bafana’s opponents tomorrow, Igesund said that he had done his homework on the islanders.

“We have had a lot of good people working on gathering information about them and we now know them well,” said the coach. “I am sure that they have been studying us too.”

While tomorrow’s double header (Angola play Morocco at the same venue later tomorrow night) is sold out, the ticket sales for Bafana’s two group matches against Angola (January 23) and Morocco (January 27) in Durban have improved in the last couple of days and Local Organising Committee communications officer Sipho Sithole says Moses Mabhida is “around 50% full” for both matches.

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