Bafana must avoid panic
Johannesburg - Staying calm will be vital for Bafana Bafana to ease past Sierra Leone in a crucial final Group G 2012 Africa Cup of Nations soccer qualifier, striker Bernard Parker said on Wednesday.
"We must just avoid panic and go for three points irrespective of what happens in Cairo," said Parker, who was Bafana's top striker in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup where the hosts finished as the tournament semi-finalists.
The match will be played at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Saturday.
Parker, along with his national team and Kaizer Chiefs striking mate, Lehlohonolo Majoro, have come under some criticism at both club and country level for not converting enough chances in front of goal.
Had Bafana been clinical in their testing away match to Niger in Niamey last month, they could have earned a draw instead of losing 2-1, a result that placed in jeopardy South Africa's qualifying for next year's tournament in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
As it stands, Niger (nine points) top the group and are in pole position to progress.
Second-placed South Africa and the Leone Stars (both eight points) also stand a chance, with Bafana hopeful of a win despite their inconsistent record against the West African state that has seen them win one, lose one and draw two.
Parker said the team needed to score a confidence-boosting early goal against Sierra Leone to aid them in settling down, and hope that notorious bad travellers, Niger, lose away to Egypt in a simultaneous tie in Cairo.
"An early goal from us will be a great confidence-booster and could set the tone for a positive result," said Parker.
"The pressure is on the forwards to get the goals, and Sierra Leone will not make things easy for us because they also want to win and qualify.
"The match is important to both nations, but I believe it’s more important to us as we are playing at home."
Tigerish midfielder Andile Jali banked his hopes on the extra support in the expected full capacity crowd at the zebra-striped 45 000 seating Nelspruit venue.
Fewer than 14 000 tickets remained to be sold by Wednesday.
"We know what we want, we know what we can do and we will do our best to make the country proud," said Jali.
"We also have the crowd by our side, so things should ease a little bit and that alone should make them scared of us."
The team concluded training at the Royal Marang Hotel in Rustenburg on Wednesday and leave for Nelspruit on Thursday morning.