Igesund optimistic about BafanaComment on this story
These pre-tournament days always do provide space for a heady dose of optimism to smile in the face of those dastardly realists.
And Gordon Igesund was in sterling form at the top table of positive thinking through a thick, humid Johannesburg day yesterday, with the Africa Cup of Nations edging ever closer.
It is now just eight days before South Africa play their opening match against Cape Verde at the temporarily-named National Stadium and the age old doubts remain over whether the national team can really achieve much in front of a sceptical home public.
If you consider that Bafana have not won a game at a Nations Cup finals since they beat Benin in Tunisia in 2004, the South African Football Association mandate for Igesund to reach the semi-finals looks like it’s taken right from the annals of the absurd.
And the 1-0 friendly defeat to Norway in Cape Town on Tuesday only served to highlight the apparently eternal Bafana problem – they suffer from a horrendous stage fright in front of goal.
Igesund, however, is having none of it. The mantra of “belief” that Bafana can win the Nations Cup courses through his veins, and he is also certain the goals will come once the tournament get underway.
“Finishing is not a problem, trust me,” he says. “On another day, with the same opportunities we would have had four goals (against Norway).
“If you keep saying a player can’t do it, he starts believing it. I think we can score goals, we will definitely score goals. We have the two top goalscorers in the league (Bernard Parker and Lehlohonolo Majoro) and the third all-time leading goalscorer for Bafana (Katlego Mphela).
“You can’t say you can’t do this, you have to start believing, and I know they can (score).
“I believe this team is capable (of winning the Afcon). Did you think it was possible for Swallows to finish second in the league after the previous season they had two points from 15 games? It can happen and I believe it will happen.
“At the end of the day I can only do my best. If it is not good enough, it is not good enough, but I can look in the mirror and say, ‘I know I could not have done more’. Only time will tell. In nine days the moment of truth is here.”
Just before that, tomorrow Bafana play their final warm-up match against Algeria at Orlando Stadium. The game was supposed to kick off at 3.30pm, but the Algerians rejected that time, and it will now start at 8.15.
Igesund says it is unlikely he will be fielding his expected first XI for the Cape Verde game against the North Africans.
“I don’t want to show all my cards in one shot,” he said.
“And let the opposition plan and watch our set pieces, what our left-back does, or right-back does. It will certainly be close to my first team but I might make a couple of changes.
“And tactically we might play differently … Algeria are a good test, they are 19th in the world and second in Africa, and it would be nice to get the win.
“I will not field my strongest team but I would like to get momentum with this game. Beating Algeria, psychologically, will get the people behind us.”
Thulani Serero and Dean Furman are both likely to start against Algeria, with the former certain to be fully fit at the start of the tournament, according to Igesund.