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Johannesburg – Gordon Igesund has defended the mixed success of the start of his Bafana career, insisting that results are “irrelevant” as he builds a team for the 2013 African Nations Cup.
Igesund has lost more games (three) than he has won (two) since taking over as Bafana coach in July, but there is certainly plenty of merit to his belief that it does not matter as long as he has success when South Africa host the continent from January 19 to February 10 next year.
“We’ve conceded goals in the last five or six minutes of games, after I’ve made five or six changes,” he said.
“It’s irrelevant. It wasn’t about winning and not making changes ... it is about being able to select a team in a short space of time (for the Afcon),” said Igesund.
“I have to look at players. I will sacrifice results for that. I have taken a lot of criticism but I don’t mind, I know what I am doing. At the end of the day the proof will be there when we start the Afcon.
“It doesn’t matter to me what happened in those games.”
Igesund has three more warm-up matches ahead of Bafana’s first Nations Cup game against Cape Verde at Soccer City on January 19, and was at SAB World of Beer yesterday to talk a little about his build up.
Bafana will play Malawi in Durban on December 22, then Norway in Cape Town on January 8 and Algeria at Orlando Stadium on January 12.
A squad will gather on December 20, just after the Absa Premiership season closes for the Christmas break.
“It will be mostly local-based players in Durban,” added Igesund.
“With the exception of Tokelo Rantie and May Mahlangu.
“Their seasons will have come to a close.”
The rest of the overseas-based players will then join the squad leading into the New Year, and Igesund should have all his players available for the Norway friendly in Cape Town.
He will then name his final 23-man Nations Cup squad on January 9 in the Mother City.
Igesund insisted that he was going to be very strict on his players arriving by the Fifa deadline of January 5.
“We can’t make any compromises,” he said.
The Bafana coach said that he had around 16 members of his squad already decided, with some others needing to prove their fitness in the coming weeks. These include Thulani Serero, Daylon Claasen, Katlego Mphela and Benni McCarthy.
“We are getting now to a period that is very crucial,” said Igesund.
“A couple of players have totally recovered from injury, but it is whether they are match fit or not.
“They need to start playing now. Mphela and Serero are back in full training. Claasen, Davide Somma, McCarthy – these are all players we have mentioned, we want to give them an opportunity to prove they are ready.”
As for newcomers, Igesund said he could also take a look at Ayanda Patosi, the promising South African midfielder doing well with Lokeren in Belgium’s Jupiler League.
The Bafana coach added that the period from December 27, by when he should have most of the squad together training regularly, would be key in building his side for the tournament.
“From the 27th to the next game I will have the players twice a day every day,” he said.
“You get the understanding, the mental telepathy, you train together in workingm situations.”
Igesund has been mandated to reach at least the semi-finals of the 2013 African Nations Cup, a mandate that looks, in the light of Bafana’s poor performance over the last few years, utterly ridiculous. But Igesund remains confident.
“By the time we face Cape Verde, we will be ready for the tournament,” he said.
“There will be 60 million people shouting with vuvuzelas, and if all South Africans truly want Bafana to do well, we can do well … we want that support. 1996 was magnificent and we want to emulate that and get into the semi-finals, into the final and do well. Whether we have time to mould a team into that unit only time will tell.” – The Star