South Africa will be looking to shrug off a poor recent record in the Mother City and injury concerns when they host Central African Republic for a must-win Group A 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday evening.
Kick-off is at 8:15pm.
Bafana Bafana have lost their last three matches in Cape Town – 3-1 to Zambia, 1-0 to United States and 1-0 to Norway – but coach Gordon Igesund believes this will have no effect on the outcome of the match.
“I don’t look what happened before. We will win this weekend and that’s all we have to do,” said the four-time PSL winning manager.
Of more concern than his team’s record in the Cape is the injuries that have hit the squad in recent days. Since naming his selection last week, Igesund has had to cope with the withdrawals of Tsepo Masilela and Siyabonga Sangweni, while doubts remain over the fitness of Siphiwe Tshabalala.
The pressure to pick up three points and see Bafana Bafana move up the group standings (they are presently third with two points from as many matches) will be high, but Igesund feels that the experience of dealing with that kind of expectation at the recent 2013 Africa Cup of Nations will stand his team in good stead.
“We have come a long way in a short space of time. As the tournament [2013 Afcon] went on the players started to believe in themselves and played good football. Now there is a lot confidence, a lot of camaraderie in the team and good spirit,” said Igesund.
“Our mission is to qualify for Brazil in 2014, yes it is a tough task but I don’t think we will feel the kind of pressure we felt when we started the Afcon 2013 tournament, where we were not given a chance. I have no doubt in my in my mind that we will do well because we are not under the same pressure as we were then.”
Central African Republic may have never qualified for either the World Cup or Afcon before, but they are not to be underestimated. ‘The Wild Beasts’ very nearly reached the 2013 Nations Cup and were only narrowly beaten by eventual tournament runners-up Burkina Faso in the final round of qualifying.
Kaizer Chiefs defender Morgan Gould, who is returning to the national team for the first time since suffering a serious Achilles injury last August, believes Bafana need to show their steel against CAR.
“Most teams, when they come to play South Africa, believe we are very soft, but I thrive on the physical aspect, that is my game. I think the guys will need to enjoy the physical battle and try to run around them,” said Gould.
“We have to show them what we can do. I am definitely going to enjoy the match and the task assigned to me. I believe we have the squad that can overcome such challenges. It is a huge test but very feasible.
“It is a very good feeling just being called up to the national team. Firstly for me, it is good to be playing football again after coming back from my career-threatening injury, and playing in the match on Saturday will be a bonus. It really feels very good to be back and I am looking forward to the game.”