Sundowns look to conquer Africa

2016-10-14 22:38
Pitso Mosimane (Supplied)

Cape Town - Mamelodi Sundowns begin their quest for a first ever CAF Champions League crown when they host Zamalek at the Lucas Moripe Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

For the north African side, success on the continent has not been hard to come by. They have won the continent's premier competition five times, but the last occasion was all the way back in 2002.

Saturday's match in Pretoria is the first of a two-legged final, with the return game set to take place in Egypt next Sunday night (23 October).

The South African team booked their place in the final with a 3-2 aggregate win over Zesco United, while Zamalek edged out Wydad Casablanca 6-5 over two legs.

Sundowns, who lost the 2001 Champions League final to Al Ahly, are hoping to become only the second South African club to win Africa's biggest club prize after Orlando Pirates' success back in 1995.

Sundowns president Patrice Motsepe, who has invested millions of his own money into building a side capable of conquering Africa, has made no secret of his desire to win the Champions League.

Neither has head coach Pitso Mosimane, who has led his side across the continent on a nine month journey that has been anything but a smooth ride.

Indeed it looked at one stage as if the Tshwane side's dream was shattered when they went out to AS Vita in the third round on the away goals rule, only to be reinstated into the competition after the DRC club were disqualified.

"We spent time and resources preparing for this," Mosimane told his club's website. "The Champions League is big history. It is legacy, and this is what inspires me."

It was in the final group phase though where the Brazilians really fund their feet, thanks to three consecutive wins over Enyimba and the self-same Zamalek, who they beat twice.

"Our plan is simply unfolding," Mosimane continued. "We played against Zamalek home and away and won both games. It is all about the mentality - how we think about it.

"We have a fair chance home and away, but critically, it is important to score away and to make sure our opponents do not score on our home ground."

Apart from long-term injury victim Leonardo Castro, Mosimane will have a fully fit squad to choose from and will be counting on the likes of Khama Billiat, Keagan Dolly, Anthony Laffor and Hlompho Kekana to provide the inspiration in attack.

At the back, Wayne Arendse and Thabo Nthethe have formed a rock solid partnership but will have their work cut out against a Zamalek attack which includes danger-men such as Bassin Morsi and skipper Shikabala.

"Captain Shikabala is still a Zamalek legend as he is not only a leader but he can make the difference," said Mosimane. "I am always worried when Shikabala is on the field."

Zamalek coach Moemen Soliman has seen his side boosted by the return to fitness of full-back Ali Fathi as well as Nigerian striker Stanley Ohawuchi.


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