‘If they did it in 1995, we can do it too.” This was the Orlando Pirates players’ rallying message to their supporters before jetting out of the country for Tunisia on Thursday.
As they take on Étoile du Sahel in the second leg of the CAF Confederation Cup final this afternoon, the Pirates class of 2015 believe they are a game away from emulating the class of 1995.
“When the class of ’95 went to Abidjan [in Ivory Coast], they had conceded two goals at home, but the guys believed and backed themselves to do the impossible,” said striker Kermit Erasmus.
“All it took was just one goal, and the rest is history. This group has some of the best players in the country, and we have given everything through our current CAF journey, and now we have nothing to lose. We simply have to go there and get back that away goal.”
After a 1-1 draw at home in the first leg last weekend, Pirates must score in Sousse, Tunisia, if they are to stand a chance of lifting the second-tier continental cup.
This week, Pirates coach Eric Tinkler accused the Tunisians of being disrespectful after they celebrated their goal in front of the Bucs bench last Saturday.
There would be no better revenge for Bucs than trouncing Du Sahel in their own back yard.
Pirates will be without Thandani Ntshumayelo, who is suspended for this game.
However, in crafter Issa Sarr they have a capable replacement, who should be able to fill the void left by the nippy midfielder.
Last week’s goal scorer, Thamsanqa Gabuza, will be carrying not only the hopes of Bucs supporters, but the nation’s hopes too.
Gabuza is the competition’s joint leading scorer, on six goals, and he will fight for the golden boot award with Du Sahel’s Baghdad Bounedjah in this afternoon’s final match.
Kickoff for the match was initially at 8.30pm SA time, but it has been brought forward to 4pm (also SA time) due to security concerns in Tunisia after 12 people were killed in a bus explosion this week.
Key factors for Pirates
Knowing that they need to score after conceding at home, Pirates will play with the intent to score goals. They have nothing to lose, as they need to take the game to the hosts.
Although they failed in 2013 in the final of the CAF Champions League against Al Ahly, history shows that Pirates do well when they play away from home.
Tinkler’s men go into the game having scored in every single fixture of their campaign so far, and as the top scorers in the tournament. They have lost just one game away from home in the tournament, against Zamalek, and will be confident that they can at least get a goal in Tunisia.
Pirates were a bit disorganised at the back last Saturday, as they were often caught square. They must change the way they defend, especially on set pieces, as Du Sahel showed they were good in that department. Concentration will be also be key today.
Pirates need to be bolder and show aggression from the beginning. They need to rise to the occasion, especially because no one is giving them a chance to win away from home. Consider Du Sahel’s impressive home record, logging 17 wins in 20 home games in all competitions since November last year.
They have also kept clean sheets in five of their seven home games in this year’s tournament.
The atmosphere at the Olympic Stadium in Sousse will not be welcoming to the Buccaneers, but they cannot allow that to intimidate them. They will face a hostile reception, but they should be used to this by now.
Having faced Al Ahly’s Ultras fans in Cairo, they should be able to handle the pressure. They can easily turn this to their advantage by silencing the crowd with an early goal, which will force Du Sahel to come out.
First prize: $635 000 (R9 million)
Second prize: $432 000
Channels: SABC1, SS4
Referee: Neant Alioum
Assistants: Evarist Menkouande and Elvis Guy Noupue Nguegoue