'Bafana can't let it slip now'
Siphiwe Tshabalala (File)
Johannesburg - Midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala returns this weekend to Cairo where he made his debut for the national team five years ago.
Back then Bafana Bafana defeated the hosts 2-1 in a friendly international match in preparation for the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations tournament. He came on as a substitute in the 61st minute, replacing Lebohang Mokoena.
This time the Bafana Bafana vice captain will be in the starting eleven when South Africa tackle the Pharaohs in a crucial 2012 AFCON qualifier at the Cairo Military Academy Stadium on Sunday.
He missed Bafana Bafana's last match against Tanzania and ironically, the last match he played for the national team was the 1-0 victory over Egypt in the first leg in March this year.
"It's good to be back in the team once again, there is always the pride of playing for your country. This match means a lot to me as I will be returning to the place where I made my debut," said Tshabalala.
"Back then I was a youngster and I have grown in confidence and experience, and I am a lot wiser now. Even though I have travelled a lot with the national team, this will still be a different experience for me," he said.
The left-footed player brings a wealth of experience in the squad and shares the spot as the most-capped player with Steven Pienaar on 58 caps.
Tshabalala has scored seven goals for Bafana Bafana and will be hoping that they continue from where they left off the last time against the North Africans.
"We can't emphasise this enough, victory is vital for us to stay top of the group. A draw will still suffice but three points will be great. We have done very well up to this point and we can't let it slip now. It would be great to help my team-mates get another victory over Egypt. But I know it will be a tough day at the office for us, and our approach should be business-like because they are fighting for their lives in the qualifiers so nothing will come easy for us," added the man known as Shabba.
While Tshabalala has played in Egypt, his team-mate Davide Somma will be on his first trip to Cairo. The striker is overjoyed at the prospect of taking on the Pharaohs in their backyard.
"I haven't been to Egypt, but I saw their team when they were here and they looked good. I think we did well to beat them at Ellis Park and I don't see any reason why we can't do the same there. In the past we have had difficulties against them, but the coach has conditioned us well. I also love the spirit in the camp which is teeming with talented players," said Somma.
The national team is in Johannesburg and will train at the Rand Stadium on Thursday before departing for Cairo in the evening.