JOHANNESBURG – Bafana Bafana are braced for a tough return to the Africa Cup of Nations but goalkeeper Ronwen Williams is confident they will give a good account of themselves.
Ranked a lowly 73rd in the world and 14th in Africa, the South African senior national team will be pitted against one of the continent’s powerhouses when the draw is conducted in Cairo, Egypt tonight.
Given their poor ranking, Stuart Baxter’s men are going to have to negotiate their way out of group likely to include any of hosts Egypt, reigning African champions Cameroon, Gahana, Ivory Coast, Tunisia or Senegal from Pot 1 of the draw for the June 21 to July 19 tournament.
It doesn’t get any better as Pot 2 also contains footballing nations with a good Afcon pedigree. Former champions Morocco, Nigeria, and Algeria as well as the ever-improving Democratic republic of Congo, Mali and Guinea are also likely to provide round-robin opposition for Bafana.
The South Africans are in Pot 3.
Tough as the prospects of the draw seem, Williams is not scared.
“I was having a chat with Dean (Furman) this morning and we were talking about the draw,” Williams said. “Whoever we get, it’s going to be tough. All the teams that are there deserve to be there. They were good in their respective groups.
Even though whoever we get will be tough, we have showed that we can compete. We beat Nigeria, in Nigeria and actually took four points from them. That’s the confidence we should take. We must stop being negative and focus on other teams.
Yes, we are still a work in progress and we shouldn’t jump the gun but we have players and the coach (to go far). We just need the media and the people of South Africa to be more positive, and hopefully that will rub on us.”
Williams has an opportunity to stake his claim for the vacant No 1 jersey with Itumeleng Khune still nursing his injury. He will battle with Darren Keet for the position.
Keet won the first “battle” with his display against Libya in the last Afcon qualifier which puts him in pole position. Keet was colossal for Bafana, putting a performance that confirmed his place in the squad that will go to Egypt.
“The competition is always there, and it’s healthy,” Williams said. “We’ve got respect for each other. Darren and I have worked together for a very long time, we’re quite close.”