JOHANNESBURG - His team's spot in the quarter-finals already confirmed, but Pitso Mosimane is leading Mamelodi Sundowns into their final CAF Champions League Group A match against AS Vita Club as driven as he was when the competition started.
Such is the Brazilians coach’s love for success. Not even the fact that they can only top the table if the result in the match goes their way could diminish Mosimane’s desire to lead his team to victory on Sunday.
“Of course I’d like us to get first place,” Africa’s reigning Coach of he Year said after the club’s training session in Chloorkop “When you do (finish) first it means we were the best in our group. But unfortunately it is not in our hands.”
Sundowns, the defending champions of the continent’s premier knockout competition, are currently in second spot on eight points - one behind Esperance.
They cannot be overtaken by any of Vita and St George though and will thus contest the quarter-finals.
“Unfortunately, it is not in our hands because of the game we lost against Esperance. It is coming back to haunt us,” he said, before quickly adding, “But the bigger picture is that we qualified (for the quarter-finals). And we qualified with a game in hand.”
It is an achievement Mosimane is clearly proud of and he didn’t hide it.
“We needed to get our integrity back, and we did. People were saying that these guys qualified via the backdoor (Sundowns played in the knockout last year after Vita were kicked out for fielding an ineligible player). And Vita were saying we took their cup, so we went to Kinshasa and you guys know what happened, in their backyard,” he said, in reference to their 3-1 first leg defeat of the Congolese.
“So, this story of backdoor is over. Now we are in the last eight and we did so with one game in hand. That’s integrity and I was praising the players this morning.”
That game in hand is on Sunday and with his team having scored a good win away at Ethiopia’s St George, Mosimane is confident they can finally get that seemingly elusive win at home, Sundowns having lost to Eseperance and drawn with St George.
With the quarter-finals looming though Mosimane says Sundowns will have to box clever.
He will thus have to balance the need to win with the desire to ensure he has a strong squad going into the knockout phase.
“At least we are safe now, but we are playing for the badge and integrity. And we’ve said the people must come through so we will have to put out a strong squad. But we also have to be careful because we have yellow cards, which will fade after this round. But if anyone gets a second yellow then they will be out. So we have to be smart about our approach because we still want to finish top. What if St George get a draw in Tunisia (against Esperance) like they did here?”
The clash with Vita is at the Lucas Moripe Stadium and kicks off at 7pm.