CAIRO – “I am ready,” Thembinkosi Lorch said in his soft-spoken nature when asked how he would handle being thrown in the deep end against Egypt tomorrow at Cairo International Stadium.
The SA Footballer of the Year sat on the bench for all three Bafana Bafana matches in the group stage of the Africa Cup of Nations. Coach, Stuart Baxter, didn’t even throw him on when Bafana were chasing a result against Ivory Coast, struggling to score more goals against Namibia and when they needed a point against Morocco. But the suspension of Themba Zwane could pave the way for Lorch to start against the Pharaohs in the last 16 tomorrow.
“I am ready. I know that it has been a long time since I last played,” Lorch said. “But I am ready to deliver when I get the chance. My fitness might not be that sharp because it has been a long time since I last played, but my confidence is still there. I always have confidence. I’ll wait for my chance to play. I just hope to make the most of it when I get it.”
Lorch hasn’t read much into his absence in the Afcon despite being named the best player in the country. “Things like these happen in football. You just have to be strong and wait for your chance. When your chance comes, you just have to use it,” the Orlando Pirates attacker said.
The Egyptians are expected to easily beat Bafana after their struggles to reach the last 16. Bafana reached the knockout stage with just three points, while Egypt won all three of their games to top the group. The Egyptians haven’t even looked like the juggernaut they are, which further tips the scale in their favour.
“It’s going to be a big game for us, especially playing against the hosts,” Lorch said. “The stadium is going to be packed with their supporters. We just have to show that we have good players. We have to show our experience and our talent.”
Bafana have nothing to lose in this clash. A defeat against the Egyptians is something that most fans expect. This works in their favour as they can challenge Egypt without any fear. Baxter revealed that he would love to go at Egypt, instead of being conservative like the team was in the group stage.
What also counts in Bafana’s favour is that South African teams have removed the fear element that was associated with facing Egyptian teams. Mamelodi Sundowns and the Buccaneers have thumped the country’s giants, Al-Ahly and Zamalek. The last of those defeats was a 5-0 hammering of the Red Devils by Sundowns in Pretoria, Al-Ahly’s heaviest defeat in Champions League’s history.
“We just have to believe in ourselves, and forget what people are saying,” Lorch said. “We have to do this for ourselves so that our supporters can be more confident in us; that will only happen by us giving our best on the pitch.
I have seen how they play. Gone are the days when we fear them.”