Johannesburg - Bafana Bafana’s new head coach Pitso Mosimane faces his first real test since taking over the reins from Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira when he leads the national side against Niger in a vital 2012 African Nations Cup qualifier against unknown Niger at Nelspruit’s Mbombela Stadium on September 4.
Kick-off is at 20:30.
Mosimane, who got off to a flying start in his first match in charge when Bafana defeated World Cup quarter-finalists Ghana 1-0 in a warm-up friendly played at the FNB Stadium earlier this month, said he expected Niger to come for a draw.
However, he described Niger as a closed book.
"All that I have been able to find out about them is they have two dangerous strikers that could be a handful. But we have enough class centre backs in the form of Morgan Gould, Aaron Mokoena and Bongani Khumalo who will be able to neutralise them. My fear is that Niger will defend and try and frustrate us by hitting us on the counter attack." Mosimane said he will be keep sending out his "spies" to gather information on the West Africa opponents.
"Frankly it is not easy getting information on them."
Mosimane named a 25-man squad on Thursday. He has drafted in five youngsters to gain experience. Moroka Swallows' right back Keegan Ritchie, who shone in his PSL debut season is the only newcomer. The others are Orlando Pirates two budding stars Andile Jali and Happy Jele, Belgium based former SA under-20 midfielder Daylon Claasen and SuperSport United’s new striker Kermit Erasmus who also played with Claasen for the Amajita in the African Youth Championships last year.
"I want continuity but at the same time I am slowly bringing in promising players from the SA under-20 and SA under-23 squads," said Mosimane.
" It is important for the younger players to learn and be part of the Bafana set up. I am not going to throw any of them into the deep end but I will bring them in gradually. They will all learn a lot from the camp." Mosimane has kept most of the 22-man squad that defeated Ghana except for Israel based central defender Bevan Fransman and Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder Surprise Moriri.
"We put up a solid performance against Ghana," said the coach.
"The result could have been better and I am looking for improvement. But it was a good overall display especially the first half where we dominated Ghana.
"However, this will be a far different game against Niger. We have to collect three points at home as we have a difficult away trip to Sierra Leone in October then we play the Kings of Africa Egypt (twice) in a difficult qualifying campaign. It is going to be tough qualifying for the 2012 Afcon (in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea) so it is vital we collect three points at home."
Mosimane expected the players to be match fit when they arrive in camp on Monday. He said that because it was pre-season none of the players were on top form against Ghana and the lack of fitness showed in the second half. "But,"added the Bafana coach, "Now that all the leagues have started I expect the players to be much shaper."
Bafana will train at the Hoer Skool Randburg, which was used by Brazil as their training base during the World Cup in June and July.
"I want to bring soccer to non traditional areas of the country," Mosimane explained.
"The facilities are superb and it is part of our World Cup legacy. We must utilise these facilities left from the World Cup. " The school does not have a soccer team but we want top reach out and try and bring soccer to what could be untapped resource of young talent."