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Downs’ moment of glory beckons

2016-10-23 05:34
Bafana Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane has warned his players to expect a tough game when they play Zamalek in Egypt. (BackpagePix)

Johannesburg - Pitso Mosimane does not know how to drive a bus, so don’t expect Mamelodi Sundowns to park a bus in Sunday evening's second leg of the CAF Champions League final against Egyptian giants Zamalek in Alexandria.

Many people would have been tempted to park the bus and close shop, when taking a 3-0 lead into the second leg.

But not “Jingles”. Mosimane said they would play the only way they knew: attacking football.

He said the team would rather lose playing their normal game rather than to try something they did not know.

“We know there are obstacles, but we are ready for everything they will throw at us,” Mosimane said before Sundowns’ departure on Wednesday.

He promised Minister of Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula that they would bring the trophy home.

“We will do our best to bring it home. You are invited to the podium,” Mosimane told Mbalula.

The Brazilians are on the verge of African glory, but Mosimane is well aware that almost doesn’t count for anything in football. That is why he has asked for cool heads and for the supporters to keep the champagne on ice.

Mosimane has not been carried away by the prospect of celebrating a maiden CAF Champions League title, despite having one hand on the championship trophy.

To be crowned champions, the Brazilians need to avoid losing by three or more goals in the second leg in Alexandria.

But Mosimane knows it won’t be that easy. He cautioned against complacency, saying that he expected a tough 90 minutes as Zamalek would throw everything against the wall and hope something stuck.

“We need to keep our feet on the ground. Zamalek scored four against Wydad [Casablanca] in Alexandria in the semifinal,” he said.

“We’ll be fooling ourselves if we thought they can’t score four against us.”

He would have to make sure his players did not get carried away by thinking the tie was over. His team, he said, would play in exactly the same way in all their games.

Beating Zamalek in their own back yard in the group stages did not mean anything. An away goal by Sundowns would take the tie away from the home side and give the Brazilians the advantage.

In Khama Billiat, Hlompho Kekana, Keagan Dolly and Laffor, Sundowns have what it takes to bring the trophy home.

But it won’t be easy playing against a side that has won Africa’s premier club competition five times.

Mosimane must be already eyeing the Fifa Club World Cup in Japan in December, if his club overcomes Sunday's hurdle.

He left a mark in Egypt as head coach after his Bafana Bafana team played to a goalless draw against the Pharaohs in 2011 and when Sundowns beat Zamalek in their own back yard in July.

But Mosimane has vivid memories of the Bafana Bafana side that failed to win any game in Alexandria – the same venue for Sunday night's final – back in 2006 when he was assistant to the late coach, Ted Dumitru.

He will get a good chance to erase that memory if he leads the Brazilians to the promised land. A win will complete a remarkable turnaround this year in the premier African club football competition.

Sundowns were eliminated by AS Vita Club in the final qualifying round in April, only to be reinstated when the Democratic Republic of the Congo were disqualified for using an ineligible player.

They have ridden their luck ever since and are destined for greater things.

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