Johannesburg – South Africa coach Gordon Igesund expects his goal-shy team to overcome their poor finishing when they kick off their African Nations Cup finals campaign on Saturday.
“We've done a lot of work in the last days on finishing with more composure and timing and working on trying to create a lot more easier chances,” Igesund said ahead of the team's opening game in Johannesburg against the Cape Verde Islands.
South Africa have scored seven goals in eight outings since Igesund's first match in charge in September and a growing scepticism over their chances was fuelled by failure to find the net in their international warm-ups before the tournament.
“We have been working on moving the ball around quickly and getting better ball to the strikers. I've been working a lot on that and it's been looking much better,” Igesund told Reuters on Thursday.
“I have just got to believe we can score goals. I can't go on the record and join with the press in agreeing we can't score goals. We might be battling with one or two things but we are working on solutions for those problems.
“We've created a lot of chances against very good teams in recent games, hopefully we'll be able to put them away on Saturday.”
Igesund admitted mounting pressure on his side over the last weeks has resulted in a nervous build-up.
“Over the last three weeks, pressure has been mounting on the players and there is the danger they start to believe the stuff they read in the papers about allegedly having 'no heart'. People just want to say things for the sake of saying them.
“I have to insist that I have never worked with a team that has shown more character and determination. They've shown a fighting spirit and commitment in the games.
“The players might be a little nervous right until kick off but once you've passed that first ball and the game is on, it disappears.”
Local organisers said all 87 000 tickets for Saturday's opening games at Soccer City had been sold out earlier this week. – Reuters