Johannesburg – Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund believes he has selected a 23-man squad that will make the country proud at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tournament hosted by South Africa in January.
“This is a dream team,” Igesund declared at the announcement of his squad in Johannesburg on Sunday afternoon.
“This is an outstanding team, very well balanced and the team gives me options at any moment in a game to change to a plan B or plan C.
“The players that I have selected have shown me that they are hungry to play and also I must add, even the players that I have left out, it has been the most difficult part.”
Igesund sprung few surprises with his squad, including the majority of players he has picked throughout his tenure as Bafana
coach, opting for a youthful yet experienced make-up to his outfit.
“There are so many players that are just fantastic players, but unfortunately I had to leave some players out,” Igesund said.
“We had sleepless nights. The line between being in the team and being out of the team was so small, there were so many magnificent players.
“It is a very experienced team, I've gone for youth, I've got 10 players in the squad that are 25 years and younger and I've also got some players that have many caps for South Africa.”
Igesund added that he had selected his side based on their opponents in the group stage of the tournament, which included Angola, Morocco and Cape Verde in group A.
“When you select a team, you need to know what you are selecting the team for,” he explained.
“I am selecting this team because we have three teams (Angola, Cape Verde and Morocco) that we have to play in the first round.
“Based on what those teams are capable of doing, where we are going to counter them, where I think that we can be strong and I picked a team not only based on the opposition, but one that is very well balanced.”
Igesund named four goalkeepers, led by first choice Kaizer Chiefs shot-stopper Itumeleng Khune, Wayne Sandilands and Orlando Pirates' Senzo Meyiwa.
In defence, Bloemfontein Celtic's Thabo Nthethe earned a call-up at the expense of Bevan Fransman, while Thabo Matlaba also cracked the nod.
Teko Modise missed out on a call-up, but highly-rated Ajax Amsterdam playmaker Thulani Serero made the final 23, along with the likes of Amakhosi regulars Siphiwe Tshabalala and Reneilwe Letsholonyane.
Serero is one of seven foreign-based players in the squad, including defenders Bongani Khumalo (PAOK, Greece), Anele Ngcongca (Racing Genk, Belgium), midfielders Dean Furman (Oldham Athletic, England), Kagisho Dikgacoi (Crystal Palace, England) and May Mahlangu (Helsingborg, Sweden), and striker Tokelo Rantie (Malmo FF, Sweden).
Igesund opted to leave out Mamelodi Sundowns' Teko Modise, but included Katlego Mphela, who has successfully recovered from injury.
Other notable omissions include Andile Jali, Ricardo Nunes, Sifiso Myeni and Daine Klate.
“Our preparations are really going to start now. Up until now we have mixed and shuffled the team around,” Igesund said.
“We made six substitutions in each game, the players never really gelled together, but I from January 2, I'll have all 23 players.
“I believe I have selected the cream of the crop in South African football at this point in time.” – Sapa