Thulani Hlatshwayo says the team will do what it takes to beat Nigeria. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
CAIRO – Bafana Bafana are determined to continue to chase the dream of winning the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations title when they take on Nigeria in the quarterfinals at the Cairo International Stadium on Wednesday.

For Thulani Hlatshwayo, the captain of the SA national football squad, the team’s shock Last 16 victory over hosts Egypt was inspired by the memory of South Africa’s 1996 Afcon success.

“For me, it has been quite a journey playing for Bafana,” said Hlatshwayo.

“This is a team historically known for winning the coveted continental championship in 1996, and it’s that legacy that we continue to try as best we can to replicate.

“This year’s continental tournament has been tough and making it into the Last 16 was a goal many did not expect us to reach.

“We knew coming into the game with Egypt that we had to bring heroics. We had to prove to everyone, and more importantly to our nation and to ourselves, that we could deliver.

“Our preparation for that game was intense, we knew we had to give it everything we had, and it paid off.”

Hlatshwayo, though, admitted that Wednesday’s opponents, Nigeria, would be a completely different challenge.

“We’ve now made it into the Afcon quarterfinals for the sixth time in our history,” said the Bafana skipper. “This gives us an opportunity to really chase our dream to win.

“Our next game is against Nigeria, our biggest rival team. We know playing them will be tough, but we have a clear understanding of our mission, and we’ll give it our all once again.

“This is an opportunity for us to regain trust from the fans, to truly discover our identity and to have confidence in our capabilities.

“As the captain, I’m confident in the team and what we can achieve.”

Hlatshwayo said he hoped that Bafana’s upset of a top-class Egypt side would renew the confidence that supporters had in the team.

“There’s always a lot of pressure on us to perform well,” he said. “As such, it is our intention to do our best.

“It is no longer just about participating, but about earning our place on the greatest stage in Africa.

“Whatever the outcome, this is only the beginning for us. I believe that this is a new era and an opportunity to do well.

“The hope for this tournament is to bring the confidence South Africans once had in us when the team won the tournament in 1996.

“We want to keep the nation’s faith in Bafana alive, and for young boys to learn from our journey and to see how important it is to not give up.

“The message to people out there is to pursue their dreams, no matter the failures, the criticism and the challenges.

"I hope our journey inspires South African heroics.”

African News Agency (ANA)

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