Durban – Bafana Bafana were given a victorious send-off when they beat Malawi here on Saturday and coach Gordon Igesund expects similar boisterous support when they return for group matches during the African Cup of Nations.
South Africa beat Malawi 3-1 at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in front of a crowd of about 20 000, which Durban-born Igesund said felt more like 50 000 with the cheering and blowing of vuvuzelas. The team will open their campaign against Cape Verde at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on January 19. Durban will witness their next two group games against Angola (January 23) and Morocco (January 27).
Passionate crowds getting behind the team would be a key factor in how South Africa fare at the tournament from January 19 to February 10, said Igesund.
Saturday’s win, courtesy of goals from Lehlohonolo Majoro, Siphiwe Tshabalala and May Mahlangu, was played at 5pm as part of a dress rehearsal for the Angola clash which will kick off at the same time. While encouraged with the performance the coach gave away little in terms of his final squad, which he will announce on December 30, following a mini-camp in Gauteng for 36 players.
“I’ve got about 18 players in mind. We still need to look at (Ayanda) Patosi, Katlego Mphela and Thulani Serero in camp. Every player out there wants to be in the Afcon squad and they’re trying to force their way in.
“I don’t want to talk about individual players, but I’m very happy with what I saw. There are a lot of good things and certain areas we need to improve. Playing games is very difficult because they’re a group of players who are just playing. In camp, I’ll have controlled game situations where I can stop and make changes.
“I want to play at a high tempo, quick, in and around the box and keep teams on the back foot. We did that against Malawi, but the mental telepathy is lacking.
“Players are still not aware about the runs to make. We did well for a period of time when we got wide and turned players. Overall I saw a lot of positive things, but we still need to become the team that I need,” said Igesund.
After the squad announcement on December 30 another training camp will be held from January 2 which will allow Igesund to fine-tune the tactical aspects of his team. That camp in Johannesburg will enable him to gauge the match fitness of players returning from injury, such as Mphela, Serero and Benni McCarthy.
Igesund emphasised that there won’t be room for injured players, but that he would make a judgment call on players who are short of match fitness. “We’ll see how Serero fares,” Igesund said of the midfielder who recently started playing reserve team football for Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam as part of his comeback from injury.
“Even if it’s 60 minutes of Serero, it can make a huge difference. As a playmaker he sees things early, works hard and scores goals. If he’s injured, he won’t make the squad. But if he can give 60-70 minutes, I will make a judgment call about whether to include him.
“Regarding Benni, I’ve spoken to (Orlando Pirates coach) Roger De Sa, but not yet with Benni. At the camp, Benni himself will be honest and say if he can train or play. I’ll select a team and go with it. Only time will tell if I’ve made the right decisions, but I’m confident I’ll get it right,” said Igesund. – The Mercury