Bafana back in serious trainingComment on this story
Johannesburg - South Africa returned to serious training on Tuesday after being given a day off on Monday with the good news that striker Lehlohonolo Majoro is fit to return for the quarter-final match against Mali on Saturday.
The match is scheduled for a sold-out Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Majoro sustained a shin injury in South Africa's 2-0 win over Angola and will train alone until Thursday.
Bad news however, is that defender Anele Ngcongca, who has featured in all three Bafana Bafana matches in the tournament, has been suspended for the Mali clash after receiving two yellow cards in the group stages.
'Everything happens for a reason. Anele is not available for our next match, Gaxa has been working hard at training and now his opportunity has arrived. Maybe he is the right player for this match; even if Anele was available I think I would have used Gaxa. I think things were meant to happen this way,” said Bafana Bafana head coach Gordon Igesund.
“We are two games away from the final, the players understand where we are and we all know there is a huge challenge that lies ahead of us. We know what we have to do.
“When you get this far in any competition, you are self motivated, but at the same time it gets tougher. Mali is a very talented team with very hard working players,” added Igesund.
“They play differently to most teams we have faced; they like to slow things down. They knock the ball around and are very comfortable on the ball, but then again there are no easy games in the quarter-finals.”
The coach said he was happy his players were beginning to rise to the occasion after a slow start to the tournament.
'To be honest, we were under huge pressure, it would have been an absolute tragedy had we not qualified for the last eight. So the pressure is off as far as that issue is concerned.
“The expectations were so high because we hadn't performed well in our friendly matches. But when you analyse those matches you will realise they were very tough and they are helping us now.” - Sapa