Bafana 'ready for war'
Itumeleng Khune (Gallo)
Johannesburg - Bafana Bafana are not going to have sleepless nights worrying about opening Soccer World Cup Group A opponents Mexico, before they clash at Soccer City on Friday.
WIN: World Cup Havaianas
Kick-off is at 16:00.
Said Bafana number one goalkeeper, Itumeleng Khune: “We focus on ourselves, not our opponents or individuals.
"We are ready and prepared to show the country and the world what we are made of.”
His sentiments were echoed by his Kaizer Chiefs team-mate and midfield star, Siphiwe Tshabalala, on Tuesday as the clock counts down towards of the biggest sporting event ever to be held in South Africa and the continent.
Tshabalala will earn his 50th cap against Mexico in the match which has been sold out. “I am living my dream," said Tshabalala.
"When I was a youngster growing up in Alexandra, my goal was to play for Chiefs. I achieved that and now I am living the biggest dream of all -playing for my country in the World Cup.
"And the cherry on top is reaching the 50-cap milestone against Mexico in the first World Cup match ever played in South Africa. That has made the day even more special for me.”
Tshabalala has been a revelation during the World Cup warm-up campaign. He was battling to hold down a regular place at Amakhosi last year and now he is an automatic starter for Bafana.
Tshabalala credits his new found form and status to Bafana head coach Carlos Alberto Parreira. “The coach has brought out the best in me.
"He has given me my self-confidence back. Under Parreira I am now enjoying my soccer. He has really helped me a lot and I aim to repay him during the tournament.”
On how Parreira has turned around Bafana from a bunch of losers under previous coach Joel Santana, Tshabalala said: “When Parreira joined us last November he made us work on the basics, playing simple soccer and keeping the ball on the ground.
"He has tremendous experience of the World Cup and international soccer. Add to that our new-found fitness and five months down the line we are more than ready for Mexico and the other challenges the World Cup will throw up at us.”
Tshabalala, who doubles up as one of Bafana’s free kick specialists, is hoping to get a chance to take one of his free kicks around the area on Friday. “I have been working hard in training, trying to improve my free kicks and if given the chance, I hope to make them count against Mexico.”
Meanwhile Khune said he had fully recovered fitness after suffering knocks in the 2-1 win over Colombia at Soccer City and in the 1-0 win over Denmark last Saturday at the Super Stadium.
There are no fears over my fitness. Friday is the biggest day of my life and while there are a few nerves, I am going to make the most of it.”
Khune has watched Mexico in their warm-up programme and was impressed by their 2-1 win over defending champions Italy in Brussels, Belgium last week.
“They are a good side, but we must attack them. I know they have quality strikers, but so do we. And we are not going to sit back and allow them to come at us or dictate to us. ”
Both Khune and Tshabalala are excited about the 90 000 odd vuvuzelas blowing fans expected to pack Soccer City to the rafters.
“Our fans are special and are going to play a key role. We know how important it is to win and while Mexico are not going to make it easy for us, we are going to make it as tough as possible for them.
"Our loyal supporters will play their part. We are not looking at a draw - we want three points for a win and kick off the tournament in style.”