The France-based midfielder spoke with a care-free attitude, describing the mood in the Bafana camp as “chilled” before revealing that there is no pressure on the players. His attitude could just be the antidote that Bafana needs in a pressure-filled encounter against the Mediterranean Knights.
Zungu & Co have to qualify for this year’s Afcon after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and Afcon 2017. The players and the coach know that they are under pressure and they have to deliver. But constantly carrying that weight of expectation could trouble a team that is not that strong mentally. Bafana crumble under pressure, especially when they are expected to get a positive result, which is why coach Stuart Baxter has been preaching calm in Tunisia.
“We’re looking forward to a very nice game of football,” Zungu said. “It’s just another day, another match. We have to go out there, play our hearts out and win the match for ourselves and the nation. Everyone is happy, from the players to the coach. What I like most about this camp is that everyone is just chilled, there’s no pressure. The coach spoke to us, he motivated us not to feel any pressure, but to go out there and enjoy ourselves. Just play.”
When Bafana just play, they are devastating. They have a good record in friendly matches where they are “just playing”. But when there’s something to play for, a place in the knockout stage or qualification for a major tournament, they retreat into their shells. Should Libya score first in Sfax on Sunday, it will test the players’ mental strength. Will they crumble and allow the Libyans to run riot? Or will they buckle up and rescue a campaign they started on a high by beaten Nigeria away. Baxter spoke about needing soldiers and artists for that clash with the Super Eagles. Zungu was both of that, a soldier who tirelessly worked hard in midfield and an artist who sprayed passes to start attacks. Baxter will need similar type of players on Sunday. Even though they only need a point, Bafana need to take the initiative against a team that will hit them with all that they have. While Zungu is coming from a lengthy lay-off due to a knee injury he picked up in the colours of his French club Amiens, he is excited to be back in the Bafana setup even though he admits that he didn’t expect the call-up.
“Coming here is always nice,” Zungu said. “I felt so happy when I got the call-up. Everything has been good, I am enjoying the spirit in the camp. It’s nice and everyone is chilled. They’re looking forward to the match. Honestly I didn’t expect the call-up, but at the same time I was happy when I got it.”
Bafana have to get past their own demons to return with a ticket to Egypt. There have been a number of instances where Bafana have imploded on the last day of their qualifiers, going with not only hope but also calculators to work out the complicated equations they have put themselves in. This is why Baxter is working on his players’ mental strength with the equation being simple, don’t lose.
“As players and professional footballers, we want to qualify and compete with the best,” Zungu said. “My message to the fans is that they must support us, we will go out there and do the business.”