Polokwane - Bafana Bafana find themselves on the verge of qualifying for a major international tournament for the first time in six years ahead of Wednesday’s 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier against Congo in Polokwane.
Currently top of group A, Bafana have put themselves in pole position and will be bidding to be among the top two of the group to automatically qualify for the African spectacle.
Having played three games each, South Africa lead Congo by a point, followed by Sudan and Nigeria, who bring up the rear.
The Super Eagles from Nigeria were in serious danger of relinquishing their 2013 AFCON title without even being present to defend it.
Having last qualified for the AFCON showpiece in 2008 - their last appearance in a major tournament - Shakes Mashaba and his outfit need a win on Wednesday to secure their passage to Morocco.
“Unfortunately complacency is something psychological. It’s not something physical that you can take out of a person and put it [away],” Mashaba said in Polokwane on Tuesday.
“The players have to decide their own fate. Everybody has been made aware that though we have not yet qualified, we’re still left with one or two games to say that we have qualified. We’re going to keep focused but yes, we all want to win.”
Following three superb results both home and away, Mashaba had every reason to be confident of South Africa’s chances. But the coach was far from talking up his team’s chances of securing qualification to Morocco with two games to spare.
“Unfortunately we are faced with a wounded tiger. Congo will come spitting fire. They won’t just come as sheep to the slaughter.
“They’ve got nothing to lose now. They’re going to throw numbers forward so it’s going to be critical not to change too much from our plan.
“Our plan is to keep them at bay for the first 20 or 25 minutes, frustrate them. They will be pumping a lot of balls into our defensive area. Our boys at the back will have to be alert all the time.”
Bafana appeared to have come out of last weekend’s fixture in Pointe Noire relatively unscathed.
Although Mashaba stopped short of declaring a clean bill of health, the 64-year-old said he had no concerns, despite star striker Bongani Ndulula’s knock to the knee late in Saturday’s game.
“We had those players with knocks. Erick Mathoho had a little bit of concussion and the medical staff said to rest him altogether here in Polokwane.
“We had Ndulula who had a knee problem, Andile Jali didn’t have a serious issue. We have our last training session this afternoon where we will put them through their paces.”