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While most of the pre-match talk ahead of tomorrow night’s World Cup qualifier between Bafana Bafana and the Central Africa Republic has been about the hosts’ injury concerns at the back, coach Gordon Igesund is focusing more on his attack.
The late withdrawals of stalwart defenders Tsepo Masilela and Siyabonga Sangweni have left South Africa a bit light on experience at the back ahead of the crucial clash at the Cape TownStadium (kick-off 8.15pm).
But Igesund hasn’t really spent a lot of time dwelling on who will replace those two quality performers.
Instead, the coach yesterday spoke at length about their plan of attack against tomorrow’s opponents, as three points from the match will bring them back into contention after two draws in their opening two group matches against neighbours Botswana and Ethiopia.
Bafana are third in Group A, one point behind second-placed Central Africa Republic and two points behind group leaders Ethiopia.
South Africa also still have to play Central Africa Republic and Ethiopia away from home as well, which makes the maximum points on offer tomorrow night even more important for Bafana.
“This is without a doubt a must-win game, you can see from selection that I tried to assemble a very offensive team, players that can change the game at any given time,” Igesund said yesterday.
“Going away for our next two games against Ethiopia and the Central Africa Republic it’s going to be very difficult, not only because of the opposition, but also the conditions.
“The hotels are not bad, and we will take our own chef, but the training facilities aren’t good and there are no decent pitches to play on. That is going to be the big challenge for us, and that is why we know we need to apply ourselves here.”
South Africa definitely improved their attacking play during the recently completed Africa Cup of Nations on home soil. After a poor start against Cape Verde in the opening match, Bafana looked a lot more threatening after the introduction of May Mahlangu next to Dean Furman in the middle of the park.
Mahlaungu will again shoulder the play-making responsibilities tomorrow night, but it’s the wide men that will play important roles on attack.
Igesund said he brought the match to Cape Town because of the big pitch, as he wants to stretch his opponents to try and get in behind their back line.
Thuso Phala is likely to start on the right wing after his exploits at Afcon, while one of Thabo Matlaba or Tebogo Langerman will play a more advanced role, and go on the overlap from the left-back position. Igesund also has the option of playing Daine Klate, a natural left-footed midfielder, out wide.
“Last night we watch DVDs of them, and I showed the team the match in Egypt, where they came from behind twice with 10 men to beat Egypt 3-2. To do that against a strong Egypt side with 10 men tells you something about the opposition.
“But the mistake that Egypt made against them was trying to go through the middle. Central Africa Republic were quite organised and disciplined, so we need to try and stretch them,” Igesund said.
“I’m very fortunate to have very attacking fullbacks on the left side. We have Tebogo Langerman, who I think is good going forward. He used to be a winger and has got an engine on him.
“On the right we have Thuso Phala, who will cause them some problems. When we get the ball, we want to use all of the big field. They like to be compact, and if we stretch them we could open them up.”
However, Igesund is still keeping his starting line-up a secret. In the past, previous Bafana coaches showed their hand quite early in the week, but there has been no indication at training who will start tomorrow night.
The team trained at the match venue for the first time yesterday, but journalists were only allowed to be present for the first 15 minutes – basically the warm-ups.
“I know my starting 11, but I don’t want them to plan around my team. The opposition we are playing against are very fortunate, because they can get good information about us,” Igesund said.
“They have got players scattered all over the place, so it’s been difficult to get information on them. But we have got some good information nonetheless, and I think our preparation had gone really well, because it’s not easy to get the stuff.” - The Star