Cape Town - On the back of the news that South Africa climbed eight places in the FIFA world rankings list this week, Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund dismissed talk of his team fearing Nigeria in their final group A game of the African Nations Championship (Chan) on Sunday.
Igesund’s troops moved up to 54th place in the world and 10th in Africa with their win over Mozambique in the opening game of the Chan tournament.
South Africa have lost two of their last 10 games, winning six of them, also beating World and European champions Spain in November last year.
“Why should I be scared of Nigeria? We’re not scared of anybody. We’ve just beaten Spain, I should be scared of Nigeria?” Igesund said at Bafana’s headquarters in Cape Town on Thursday.
South Africa top their group, thanks to a superior goal-difference over Mali, but will need to avoid defeat against Nigeria on Sunday to progress to the next round.
Nigeria beat Mozambique 4-2 in their second match, after Bafana’s 1-1 draw with the Malians on Wednesday, and the pair will now battle it out for the second qualification spot up for grabs from group A at 7pm Sunday.
Despite the coach coming under fire for his decision to bring on a defensive midfielder to replace a striker shortly after Bafana allowed Mali back into Wednesday’s encounter, Igesund ruled out a defensive effort against Nigeria and said the South Africans would push for all three points at the Cape Town Stadium.
“My philosophy has always been play to win. When you start thinking about trying to play for a draw, you start doing the wrong things,” he said.
“I won’t compromise my principles. My principles have always been, go out there and try win a match. If the other team scores three, you must score four.
“It’s been my philosophy for many years and it has worked for me. There’s certainly no way I’m going to go out there play defensively."
Igesund was hoping for an open game and hinted that Bafana would look to pepper the Nigerian goal box with crosses from out wide.
“We know that Nigeria are going into this game with only one thing on their mind, and that’s to win the game.
“We will be offensive against them, that’s the plan, we want to go forward.
“I want to attack them down the sides, have over-lapping fullbacks and let’s ask the questions, we need to ask a lot of questions defensively and we’ll try and do that.”
The mind games appear to have kicked-off ahead of the game, following Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi’s comments that Bafana are under pressure to progress into the knockout rounds, adding that Nigeria would look to boot the host nation out of the tournament early on.
“I have a lot of respect for (Stephen) Keshi and his team but I am quite confident we are going to do well on the day,” Igesund said.
“The only thing is that it would have been nicer not to have this kind of pressure.
“But then again that is what makes this game so exciting, the anxiety of not knowing whether you will qualify or not, because if you know it will mean nothing.”