Bafana brace for tough task
Cape Town - The Nelson Mandela Challenge takes place in Port Elizabeth this Saturday as South Africa welcome the highest ranked nation on the African continent, Ivory Coast. The match will take place at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, kick-off at 15h15.
It promises to be a stiff test for Bafana Bafana as they bid to start repairing the damage from their failure to qualify for the 2012 AFCON finals. Coach Pitso Mosimane, though, admits there are tough times ahead.
“It is a long road ahead, but we will rise again and make the nation proud. I am committed to making sure this happens and it starts now,” said the coach.
Mosimane, though, couldn’t have picked stiffer opposition for their first match after their qualifying debacle.
Bafana have won just one of their last four games and that was a home friendly against a weakened Burkina Faso side which they coasted 3-0.
The aforementioned sequence of results started well enough with a highly creditable 0-0 draw in Egypt, but the last two AFCON qualifiers brought a 2-1 defeat in Niger followed by a 0-0 stalemate at home to Sierra Leone which proved fatal to their AFCON qualifying campaign.
Now South Africa go up against the No 1 ranked team in Africa, an Ivory Coast side that had no such problems in their AFCON qualifying group, finishing with a 100% record from six matches with 19 goals scored and just four conceded.
Moreover, the Ivoirians are not bringing a weekend side to South African shores with their squad including the likes of Salomon Kalou, Gervinho, Yaya Toure, Emmanuel Eboue, and many more talented players. Unfortunately, though, they will be without Didier Drogba, who is out injured.
Still, Mosimane knows it will be a tough ask: “We respect Ivory Coast. They are the No 1 team in Africa and 19th in the world. We know what to expect.
“But it is important not to over-respect them. When we play a team of this profile it is very difficult to win, but possible. We believe we can win.”
Looking at the Bafana squad Mosimane included a few new faces, but more importantly welcomed back his captain and star player Steven Pienaar. Nonetheless, the South African coach knows their biggest problem going into this match is finding the back of the net.
“The good news is that we are welcoming back some players from injury and we have four new players uncapped in the squad.
“We know we need to score more goals and that is where we will focus our attentions because it is in the striking department in our country where we are lacking. Therefore, I will change my strategy because we cannot win if we do not score,” confirmed Mosimane.
One aspect South Africa have been solid in is defence and although the coach lost Bongani Khumalo this week due to injury he is still confident they can keep it tight at the back: “Our defence has always looked solid and I expect the same.”