Ready for action

2019-11-20 06:02
                              photo:galloBafana Bafana players (from left) Dean Furman, Bradley Grobler and Lebogang Manyama during a training session at Sturrock Park in Johannesburg on Monday. They face Ghana in Cape Coast on Thursday for the opening of the Afcon 2021 qualifying competition.

photo:galloBafana Bafana players (from left) Dean Furman, Bradley Grobler and Lebogang Manyama during a training session at Sturrock Park in Johannesburg on Monday. They face Ghana in Cape Coast on Thursday for the opening of the Afcon 2021 qualifying competition.

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BAFANA Bafana jetted off to Ghana on Monday night with Molefi Ntseki bidding to start his run of competitive matches with the national team on a satisfactory note by possibly adopting a conservative approach in the opening Afcon 2021 qualifier in the West African nation.

Having experienced his first taste of action as Bafana Bafana head man in the Nelson Mandela Challenge exhibition match against Mali in mid-October, Free State-born Ntseki left the country with all his domestically-based players for the nervy assignment. His travel party included experienced Kaizer Chiefs attacker Lebogang Manyama, after the withdrawal of injured Mamelodi Sundowns star Themba Zwane.

Manyama was present at the team’s first training session at Sturrock Park in Johannesburg on Monday. Ntseki’s foreign-based players are due to arrive in Ghana separately before he concentrates his training programme on a likely compact approach, designed to secure at least a point from Thursday’s 9 pm kick-off at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium.

Ntseki seems to be aware that playing all-out attacking football would be too risky on Ghanaian soil, as much as he would like to start his competitive tenure with a flood of goals. He said before the departure: “The programme is very challenging. There is nothing we can do about it except to be mentally ready to go to Ghana and do our best and then come back to play Sudan.

“We thank Chiefs for releasing Manyama at short notice. He adds value to the team.

“The other thing that works well for us is that Lebo Mothiba played at the weekend and scored, so he will bring energy and confidence into the team.

“Also Kamohelo Mokotjo and some other players did very well at the weekend, so that is very positive for us.

“If we do things right and get the support we need, we can conquer Africa. But we have to be careful. Starting on the front foot and getting an early goal would unsettle Ghana, but at the same time if you give Ghana too much possession, they can easily hurt you because they are playing at home, have support and can grow in confidence. So one has to be very cautious in this match.

“We have to manage all phases of the game very well.” Sundowns attacker Thapelo Morena and Cape Town City defender Thami Mkhize are expected to overcome a calf strain and ankle issue respectively before the game, according to the national team’s medical staff.

Meanwhile, Ghana’s administrators are reportedly doing all they can to drum up support for their team for the encounter. They have created “Bring Back the Love”, a drive aimed at regaining domestic support for the Black Stars after their disappointing 2019 Afcon campaign. They face the South Africans in a Chinese-built stadium with a new FA president and executive council in attendance on Thursday.

The Black Stars will reportedly interact with fans and distribute merchandise to them when making their way from their training base in the capital of Accra to the Cape Coast stadium, which is said to be a well-known historical and cultural city in the West African country.

Ghanasoccernet has reported that Black Stars coach Kwesi Appiah is likely to have a full house of players following arrivals from Europe.

After Thursday’s match, Bafana return to host Sudan in Johannesburg at 3 pm on Sunday, while Ghana next meet Sao Tome and Principe.

The Afcon 2021 finals will take place in Cameroon, who lost the 2019 edition due to poor preparations.

Algeria are the defending champs after triumphing in Egypt earlier this year.

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