Yaoundé – Bafana Bafana on Monday returned to the scene of their great triumph, getting themselves into shape for Sunday’s do-or-die World Cup qualifier against Ethiopia in Addis Ababa (2pm SA time).
Continuing preparations in this Cameroon capital, which was chosen by the Central African Republic as a neutral venue for last Saturday’s match against Bafana, has come as a surprise to many, not least as information on the web paints vastly different weather conditions between Yaoundé and Addis Ababa.
But Gordon Igesund justified the decision to remain here after Monday’s training session at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo.
It all has to do with altitude, the Bafana coach reasoned, although he also discounted flying into Ethiopia too early because of a lack of training facilities in the East African nation, while the pitch here is in an excellent condition.
“The altitude here is 900m above sea level. In Ethiopia it is 2400m.
“With that kind of altitude you need to 12 days to acclimatise. We don’t have that much time so we decided it’s better to stay here,” Igesund said.
Thus Bafana will use the stadium where they trounced the CAR at the weekend as a training venue this week, finishing off on Thursday before (hopefully) flying out to Douala using the very airline that twice left them stranded last week. They will then travel to Ethiopia on Friday, arrive in the evening and train at the match venue on Saturday.
Whether such logistics will be adequate for Bafana to dispose of Ethiopia remains to be seen, but Igesund is confident his men have what it takes to topple them in Group A and enhance their chances of going to Brazil next year.
The mathematics have become simple: it’s a two-way battle between the Ethiopians, who are two points clear at the top, and Bafana, with the CAR and Botswana officially eliminated from the race after their respective losses.
Ethiopia, playing at home where they are unbeaten since May 2011, have a slight advantage in that a win is not mandatory for them. But should it come, it would bring with it disastrous consequences as it would mean Group A is decided before the final matches in September.
It’s a situation that Igesund sadly was plunged into after assuming the Bafana reins when four points had already been dropped in the opening two matches, but his effort at repairing that damage caused by his predecessors has been great thus far.
Igesund now believes victory in Addis Ababa, in spite of what’s expected to be intimidating conditions there, is attainable.
“We know we have to win – simple as that. Ethiopia can afford a draw, but we can’t,” he said.
That Ethiopia are not in a desperate situation, Igesund added, would force them to sit back and look for a draw that would keep them two points ahead.
“I don’t expect them to attack us because they don’t have to win. You don’t need rocket science to know that. We will go into the match with a plan that will enable us to save energy and attack all the time.”
That plan should mean Igesund considers Tlou Segolela and Richard Henyakane to play a role in Sunday’s clash, although he was giving away pretty little in yesterday’s session that began with a long chat with the squad and concluded after about two hours in humid Yaoundé conditions.
Two of Bafana’s sure starters, Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Anele Ngcongca, sat out the session due to what Igesund said were niggles picked up at the weekend.
“It was just a precaution. They complained of tight thigh muscles and that was to be expected because the pitch was heavy on Saturday. But both will start training (today).” – The Star