JOHANNESBURG – Bafana Bafana midfielder Dean Furman believes that their friendly against Ghana and stay in Dubai has prepared the team well for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Bafana arrived in Cairo on Tuesday after a mini-camp in Dubai where they played a friendly against the Black Stars on Saturday.
Coach Stuart Baxter fielded two teams in the match that ended goalless. Yesterday they were supposed to play their last friendly against Angola, before fine-tuning their preparations for the continental showpiece, but the match was called off in the morning.
South Africa will start their campaign against Ivory Coast on Monday at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo. They will then face neighbours Namibia on next Friday and end their group stage campaign against Morocco on July 1.
Furman revealed that their minimum target is to reach the last 16. To do that they have to either finish in the top two of Group D or be one of four best third-placed teams in Egypt.
“We started the game very well against Ghana, playing against a top, top side in Africa with some top players who are playing in the best leagues in the world,” Furman said. “There were a lot of positives, but there was also a lot of things to work on.
We watched the video and found areas we can improve and we have taken that into our training sessions so that when the Ivory Coast game comes, we are more than ready and confident going into the first game.
“It’s very good to be at our destination. We’ve been waiting to be here for a long time. The pre-camp has been very good. Going to Dubai was good for us because of the heat factor. We really got used to the heat, and the good thing is that it is 10 degrees cooler here, so hopefully that issue can be put on one side because we are now used to it. We’ve acclimatised.”
Bafana might have been the last team to book a ticket to Egypt, but they showed they aren’t to be taken lightly by qualifying for the tournament undefeated and beating Nigeria away. But that hasn’t translated to an outpouring of optimism by South Africans who have been disappointed by the team a number of times. Furman made a passionate plea to fans to continue supporting them.
“We hope that we can show on the pitch that we are a top team to be reckoned with in the continent, we have confidence that we can go out there and show that,” Furman said.
“We have to apply what we have learned at training and hopefully that’s evident in our first game against Ivory Coast.”
Bafana have reached the knockout stages of Afcon only once in their last five appearances, and that was when they hosted the competition in 2013. Bafana were also grouped with Morocco in that tournament, producing a remarkable comeback, twice, to draw 2-2 at the Moses Mabhida Stadium to reach the last 16.
This year they will also play their final group-stage game against the Moroccans. Furman is the only player who was in the starting XI that day and is in Cairo six years later.
“We believe! This is a strong team coming into the tournament with a lot of confidence based on our qualification campaign where we went undefeated,” Furman said.
“Certainly, our victory away against Nigeria, our performance against them at home and our crucial victory against Libya away gives us a lot to be confident about. The first target is to get out of the group, thereafter it’s a knockout competition and anything is possible. But we have to get out of the group which is our first target. We are not looking beyond that at the moment.”