Bafana Bafana

Bafana out to keep Cosafa Cup pride

Stuart Baxter. (Gallo Images)
Stuart Baxter. (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - Being a regional tournament, the Cosafa Cup is not always the most scintillating of competitions.

The SA Football Association has already said it does not expect much from the tournament and that it should be used to widen the pool of national team players.

But that counts for nothing with hard-to-please South Africans, who expect Bafana Bafana to win whenever they take to the field and show their dominance in the region.

As defending champions, a lot is expected from Bafana and they will be out to retain the title on home soil.

Regional stage

Stuart Baxter’s announcement of his squad for the tournament raised many eyebrows as he dropped every senior player from the squad, rightfully so, calling up what can only be called a “B team”, or fringe, players to Rustenburg.

Many are not quite sure what to make of this.

But it is a brilliant move from Baxter to opt to see how his other players do on the regional stage.

Having decided to leave his experienced players behind, Baxter hopes that those that he has selected rise to the occasion and challenge for a place in the World Cup qualifier team next month.

The ball is in the players’ court now as they need to grab the opportunity and deliver.

Bafana take on Tanzania in the quarterfinals on Sunday afternoon without Cape Town City winger Aubrey Ngoma, who has sustained a knee injury.

One player who needs to prove his worth is former Orlando Pirates midfielder Lehlogonolo Masalesa, who has been named the captain of the team.

Win more hearts

With the midfield position contested territory, the AE Larissa midfielder could add to Baxter’s headaches.

Baxter already has to choose between Hlompho Kekana, Dean Furman, Andile Jali, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Bongani Zungu and Tiyani Mabunda, and a good showing from the Greece-based Masalesa will add to the coach’s selection problems.

He is not the only player looking to leave a lasting impression.

Two players in the squad played in the 2015 Fifa Under-17 World Cup in Chile, and six featured in the recent Fifa Under-20 World Cup in Korea.

Following a brilliant start in his second stint with Bafana, Baxter will also be looking to win more hearts by being victorious in this tournament.

He beat Nigeria in his first game in charge last month, but lost to Zambia a few days later.

Having already played three games in this competition, Tanzania will have momentum on their side going into Sunday's match, unlike the Bafana squad, which has not played a single game. This could work against Baxter as he will only get to see his players in a match situation in the actual contest.

However, Tanzania’s record is not impressive as they have only won one of their three matches – two ending in draws. Despite having fringe and inexperienced players, Bafana should still be too much for the East Africans.

Kick-off at Royal Bafokeng Stadium is at 17:00.

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