Bafana take on Africa’s best
Cape Town - South Africa begin their preparations for the 2013 CAF Africa Cup of Nations and 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers with a friendly international against Cote d’Ivoire at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday afternoon.
Kick-off is at 15:15.
After Bafana Bafana’s failure to qualify for the 2012 AFCON finals, attention has turned to readying the team for the 2013 tournament, which will be hosted in South Africa, as well as qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
To that end, Pitso Mosimane’s team will look to play as many matches against top qualify opposition as possible, starting with this encounter against Africa’s top ranked side, Cote d’Ivoire. Bafana also face neighbours Zimbabwe in another friendly in Harare on Tuesday.
“We have two matches that we will be playing; hence we have called up 28 players so we don’t overburden some players,” said Mosimane when naming his squad for the two matches last week.
“This is an excellent opportunity to look at other players and not have just one group. We have some exciting youngsters that have been doing well in the league and we would like to have a closer look at them, get them to understand our philosophy.”
Mosimane is referring to players such as Musa Bilankulu, George Lebese, George Maluleka, Granwald Scott and Siyabonga Nontshinga, who have all been rewarded will call-ups for their fine form at club level in South Africa’s Premier Soccer League.
The match against Cote d’Ivoire will mark the 17th edition of the Nelson Mandela Challenge, which began back in 1994. In last year’s edition South Africa took on USA at the Cape Town Stadium and lost 1-0.
“For the integrity of the tournament we always try to get the best teams in honour of Nelson Mandela, hence the number one team on the continent, Cote d’Ivoire, who will give the tournament the high-profile stature that it deserves,” said Mosimane.
“The clash against the Elephants is also aligned to our preparations for 2013 AFCON because the vision is now different, as we are hosting, so ideally we would like to play the top-ranked eight nations on the continent to give ourselves good preparation.
“We have great belief that with the strong line-up coming this way, Cote d’Ivoire will pose a very strong challenge and that is what we need. We are also hoping that Zimbabwe, with the many players based in South Africa, will help us on our way to 2013,” added Mosimane.
South Africa and Cote d’Ivoire have met in four previous matches. Three of them ended in draws and Bafana have one win to their name from the teams’ last meeting, an AFCON qualifier in 2003 that was won 2-1 thanks to goals from Shaun Bartlett and Siyabonga Nomvethe.