Durban – The only control Bafana Bafana have is over their own game, against Botswana at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday.
Whatever happens in the other Group A game, between Ethiopia and Central African Republic in the Congo, is in God’s hands, say Bafana regulars Bernard Parker and Anele Ngcongca.
“It’s about focusing on ourselves and on this game,” Bafana regular Bernard Parker said at training. “We want to expect a good result in our favour from CAR, but we have to focus on ourselves. By God’s grace, we’ll go through. The chance (of qualifying) is not so much in our favour, it’s much more in Ethiopia’s favour.
“I’m sure Botswana are determined. They will come with guns blazing and will want to win. The coach has been reminding us that we’ll have to be up for a fight, be mentally strong, and stay in the game to win,” said the striker.
The Kaizer Chiefs man could feature in the starting side behind main attacker Tokelo Rantie, while Thulani Serero, Daine Klate and Siphiwe Tshabalala offer further offensive options.
This final round of matches will determine the group winner, who will advance to the knock-out stage of African qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Brazil.
South Africa are two points behind Ethiopia, who must lose or draw for a victorious Bafana to overtake them.
Although their chance of qualification is slimmer than South Africa’s, it is not impossible for Botswana to advance.
They must win convincingly and hope Ethiopia lose by a big margin to sneak through on goal difference.
Under coach Stanley Tshosane, Botswana have been on the up over the past five years. Only 14 places separate the Zebras from Bafana Bafana. They have climbed 15 places in the same period that South Africa slid nine positions down the rankings table.
And with 10 players plying their trade outside Botswana – seven in South Africa and three in the DRC – their pool of talent has grown. Familiar faces in their camp are Platinum Stars goalkeeper Kabelo Dambe, Mogogi Gabonamong of SuperSport United and Aces midfielder Ofentse Nato.
Having made their debut in the Africa Cup of Nations last year, Botswana are eager to tackle bigger challenges.
“For us, we want a taste of what is beyond Afcon,” Tshosane said in Durban yesterday. “It would be a big achievement to reach the next round. Afcon we have tasted, and it was very sweet, so now we want the sweetest.”
They were the first to qualify for the tournament hosted in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, stunning Tunisi – away and at home.
And, after friendlies against Uganda (3-1 loss) and Malawi (1-0 win) ahead of tomorrow’s game, they’ll be no pushovers against big brother South Africa.
Meanwhile, Belgium-based right-back Anele Ngcongca said yesterday he had not been injured when Racing Genk withdrew him from the South African squad that faced Nigeria in Durban last month.
He said the matter was between the club and Safa, and that he was always ready to play whenever called up.
l Both matches start at 3.30pm. Tickets are available at R50 and R100 from Computicket and Shoprite Checkers outlets. By yesterday morning 19 000 of the 39 000 tickets had been snapped up, according to stadium manager Vusi Mazibuko.