Although Gordon Igesund is taking Bafana Bafana’s last two friendly internationals before the Africa Cup of Nations seriously, he says he is not too concerned about the results of these games.
Igesund’s main concern is getting to know his players “inside out” in the next two weeks leading up to their opening game of the continental showpiece against Cape Verde on January 19 at the National Stadium.
The four-time league winner and his 23-man squad rolled into Cape Town on Wednesday night ahead of the friendly against Norway at Cape Town Stadium on Tuesday (kick-off 8.30pm). Bafana then conclude their Nations Cup preparations against Algeria at Orlando Stadium on January 13.
“The funny thing is I know I’m going to get criticised when I say the results are not important. But the most important result for us is the game against Cape Verde,” Igesund told the media yesterday at the team’s hotel. “It’s better for me to find out things now, rather than find them out in the opening game.
“Yes, we want to win every match we play to gain confidence, but it’s not going to be a train smash if we draw or lose in these friendlies, because I will be achieving what I want to achieve.
“I need to know my players inside out, what they can do and what they can’t do, their strengths and weaknesses. So when I want someone to do something, I can say to the player ‘go do it’ because I have seen him do it over and over again. There are no chances for guessing in the Africa Cup of Nations,” he added.
At the start of his tenure, Igesund expressed his concern about matches against European teams like Poland and Norway, and not African opposition, ahead of the Nations Cup. But yesterday he said playing Norway could be a blessing in disguise. “I inherited some of the matches when I was appointed, and obviously Norway is part of that. But as it turned out opposition like Algeria play a European style of football, and so do Cape Verde,” Igesund said.
Twenty-one players took part in training yesterday, with Crystal Palace midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi only arriving late in the day before being given a little break to find his bearings after the long flight from England.
However, Oldham’s Dean Furman will only arrive in the country next week because of his team’s FA Cup match against Nottingham Forest this weekend. This left Igesund a bit peeved after he was assured that Furman would be released early to join the squad.
“I flew to London five weeks ago to discuss with his manager about an early release,” he explained. “But they have since gone back on that deal when they were drawn to play Notts Forest in the FA Cup.
“I’m very disappointed about that. After shaking hands and agreeing, the chairman has overturned the decision. That is unfortunate, but Dean will be here in the next three days,” the coach added.
Yesterday was the first time Igesund had the luxury of having the squad assembled almost a week before a match.
Bafana trained twice, with their morning session being devoted to ball possession and tactical awareness.
And the players got stuck into each other at close quarters, as the fight for places in the coach’s starting line-up for Afcon has begun.
Igesund said yesterday it will be difficult to choose his starting line-up for the match against the Norwegians.
“The first training session was fantastic as it was the first opportunity that we’ve had to get pretty much the whole squad together on the training field. The most important thing is to mould this team into a unit,” he said.
“We haven’t had that opportunity in our previous friendly games. When we played on a Wednesday, we’d only get the team together on a Tuesday and we can’t really do anything with them when it’s like that.
“Time is very important for us and now it’s a great period for everybody to work together both morning and afternoon and have chats in the evening.”