Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund and his technical team, is likely to revert to a more familiar line-up for their quarterfinal Orange AFCON cup clash against Mali on Saturday at Moses Mabhida stadium. They go into the encounter under the pressure of knowing that the entire SADC region is looking up to them.
They, together with already shamed Angola and Zambia, were the only countries that represented the region. Although the remaining southern Africans started the tournament on a slippery note, their game has so far improved that they look more likely to proceed to the semi-finals as they will even be playing in front of a predominantly South African capacity crowd at the Durban venue that has become their happy hunting ground.
Bafana Bafana’s spokesperson, Mahlomola Morake told BG Sports that there will be a few changes to the team that faced Morocco on Sunday. Defender Anele Ngcongca, who played in all three matches in the tournament, has been suspended after receiving two yellow cards in the group stages. In his place shall come Siboniso Gaxa who has fully recovered and has been working hard at training to earn a place in the squad. Morake added that Igesund might also consider goal scoring Lehlohonolo Majoro who has been responding well to his injury and is now fit to play.
“The team is more ready than ever before. The players are focused and resumed training on Tuesday after being given a day’s rest on Monday following their tough game against Morocco,” he said.
On Bafana’s defensive frailties, Morake said the coach was eaqually worried hence his deliberate focus to eliminate the problem at their training sessions.
“The players also fully understand that they have to tighten up and apply themselves to the best of their ability,” he said, adding that higher expectations at the moment seem to be placed on Siyabonga Sangweni who literally delivered South Africa to the knock-out stages with his late equaliser against Morocco.
Said Morake: “It must be noted that much as he scores goals, he is also a team player and he is the first to acknowledge that goals are a result of team work and cooperation.”
All eyes will also be on goal keeper Itumeleng Khune who spectacularly outwitted the Moroccan rampant strike force to help the country proceed.
Although Bafana Bafana’s chances of proceedings to the finals are as good as those of the other quarter finalists, in Mali they face a side that is very unpredictable and capable of beating anyone on their day, especially with the inspirational leadership of Seydou Keita.
Mali’s coach, Patrice Carteron is very confident that they can sail through to the semifinals. “The most important thing for us was to reach the quarterfinal. Now you know that everybody thinks South Africa will be the team to go to the semi-final, the pressure will be on them,” Carteron told the media in South Africa.