Durban – Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund has a mega headache ahead of this weekend’s final World Cup group qualifying match against Botswana in Durban, but it’s nothing he needs medication for.
When the national coach describes a headache as “fantastic” it means one thing – everything is going according to plan for Saturday’s showdown at the Moses Mabhida Stadium. It’s rare for Igesund to announce a squad and find that a week later there are no injury-enforced withdrawals or sudden change in flight plans of his foreign-based players.
Of the 23-man squad only 13 arrived in Durban on Monday. The rest of the players – several of the foreign contingent and the Orlando Pirates players – are expected to link with the main group on Tuesday.
While Igesund has yet to get feedback about the Pirates players following their African Champions League group defeat to Zamalek in Egypt at the weekend, he hopes they will report fully fit for duty when training commences at the People’s Park next to Moses Mabhida Stadium this morning.
“I think it’s the first time I’ve had no injuries after announcing a squad. My biggest headache is who to leave out than who to put in.
“A lot of the players are in form, they’re all putting their hands up and they’re passionate to play.
“It’s a fantastic headache to have, and over the past three days I’ve been working on some of the combinations on paper,” said Igesund shortly after the Bafana entourage arrived in sunny Durban on Monday.
This final group match is a must-win affair for South Africa if they are to harbour any hope of reaching the last qualification stage for World Cup 2014 in Brazil. South Africa must edge their neighbours on Saturday afternoon (3.30pm kick-off), and pray that the group leaders Ethiopia lose or draw against the Central African Republic (CAR). That match will be played at the same time, but in the neutral territory of Congo because of continued unrest in CAR.
“We will not be defensive; it’s not my style at all,” said Igesund. “We will be very attacking. We need to see how we will attack them. There’s (Bernard) Parker, (Tokelo) Rantie, Shabba (Siphiwe Tshabalala) and (Daine) Klate all on form but only three can play, so it’s a good headache to have.
“I’m not for a moment under-estimating Botswana, and I have no control over the Ethiopia versus CAR match.
“We’re not thinking about that. Whatever the conditions there, we don’t want to know until after our match. I won’t be changing things if they are losing 3-0 or winning 3-0. We know we’ve got to win. I’m not entertaining a draw or a loss,” the coach insisted.
This final glimmer of qualifying hope came about after Ethiopia were docked points for having fielded a defaulter.
While it is a long shot to expect CAR, who are out of the running, to unseat Ethiopia in neutral territory, Igesund said he would be gutted not to advance from the group.
“I will be absolutely gutted if we don’t qualify. To play and win three out of four games you have to go through.
“It’s unfortunate that that’s not the situation but we’re confident we can go out and do the job. We’ve been thrown a lifeline, the door is open, and we have to take it with both hands.” – The Mercury
Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs), Wayne Sandilands (Mamelodi Sundowns), Senzo Meyiwa (Orlando Pirates), Darren Keet (KV Kortrijk, Belgium – for training and assessment only)
Defenders: Thabo Nthethe (Bloemfontein Celtic), Anele Ngcongca (Racing Genk, Belgium), Bongani Khumalo (Doncaster Rovers, England), Tshepo Masilela (Kaizer Chiefs), Siyanda Xulu (Rostov, Russia), Buhle Mkhwanazi (Tuks), Thabo Matlaba (Orlando Pirates)
Midfielders: Kagisho Dikgacoi (Crystal Palace, England), Dean Furman (Doncaster Rovers, England), Reneilwe Letsholonyane (Kaizer Chiefs), Oupa Manyisa (Orlando Pirates), Andile Jali (Orlando Pirates), Kamohelo Mokotjo (PEC Zwolle, Holland), Bongani Zungu (Mamelodi Sundowns), Thulani Serero (Ajax Amsterdam, Holland), Siphiwe Tshabalala (Kaizer Chiefs), Daine Klate (Orlando Pirates),
Strikers: Bernard Parker (Kaizer Chiefs), Tokelo Rantie (Bournemouth, England), Kermit Erasmus (Orlando Pirates)
P W D L F A Pts
Ethiopia 5 3 1 1 6 5 10
South Africa 5 2 2 1 8 4 8
Botswana 5 2 1 2 7 6 7
CAR 5 1 0 4 4 10 3