JOHANNESBURG - Kamohelo Mokotjo yesterday became the latest Bafana Bafana player to concede that the national team should have done better at home against minnows Libya in last month’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
South Africa host yet another lowly outfit this Saturday, when they face Seychelles in the first of back-to-back qualifiers, and winning both would all but guarantee participation at next year’s tournament in Cameroon.
Even though the national team remains in a comfortable second place position in Group E following a surprise win away to Nigeria last year and then a goalless draw against Libya, it’s being held at home by the latter that invited the backlash.
“We know we could have done much better at home, but it was a draw not a loss. So it wasn’t the worst result,” Mokotjo said. “This next game is a crucial game, but it’s just another game where we get a chance to perform. There is some pressure, obviously. But we enjoy dealing with that pressure. It’s just important that we perform and get a good (positive) result.”
Bafana have failure to make it to two major tournaments in the past two years, and anything less than the full haul of six points against a semi-pro Seychelles side, could be catastrophic for coach Stuart Baxter. He said he expected it to be a tough task to open up the islanders, the same way Libya and Nigeria found it difficult to break them in the opening minutes.
“I spoke to the Nigeria coach recently and he admitted it was hard, but once they got the first goal it got a lot easier. I watched Libya against them and they, too, found it hard until they got the goals going,” Baxter said of the Super Eagles’ 3-0 win in the Seychelles and Libya’s 5-1 hammering of the minnows.
Bafana Bafana at their first training session in preparation for the 2019 AFCON qualifier clash against Seychelles. The first leg match will take place at FNB Stadium on Saturday. Kick-off is at 3pm pic.twitter.com/XNRNnHsx7v
Personally, Mokotjo reckons his mentality is his strongest attribute - maybe he is then a little bit better prepared than his teammates. “I don’t think we should look too far ahead. The pressure will always be there, so we should deal with each game as it comes and that is how we have established a new culture here. It takes some getting used to and adapting,” was Mokotjo’s advice to the rest of the squad.
He insisted that the talent in the Bafana squad has never been in doubt, but how hard they were willing to work for results to go with those gifts was in question. “It’s up to the players to execute with confidence on match day. The best way to get the best out of South African players is when we focus on ourselves - and not the opponent,” he said.