Williams: Bafana can beat Africa’s big guns
Williams and company will take on four-time African champions Ghana tonight in Cape Coast in their opening match of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. The Black Stars are one of the dominant forces in African football. Before their dramatic last-16 elimination in Egypt this year, they had reached the last four of Afcon in the previous six editions.
Facing Ghana in their own backyard is a mammoth challenge for any team, but Williams is confident that Bafana can get a positive result against a team that is at a crossroads.“It started with coach Stuart (Baxter) in his first game when we played Nigeria,” Williams said. “He said let’s stop this thinking that they are bigger than us and their players are playing there.
“It’s XI versus XI at the end of the day. If your mind is right, you can beat anyone. We saw it at Afcon. Bafana are in a good place now. The team has gelled well together.
“This group of players has been together for a long time now. We know each other well, and a lot of (the) guys have grown with the high-profile games we have played. We are stronger as a team now.”
Sudan at Orlando Stadium on Sunday will shortly follow the clash against Ghana. On paper, Ghana are the tougher challenge, but Bafana have a way of complicating simple equations and coming out tops when they have their backs against the wall. Bafana had a good qualifying campaign on the road in the 2019 Afcon qualifiers, beating Nigeria in Uyo but struggling to put the Seychelles to the sword away after thumping them 6-0 in Johannesburg. It’s the “easy” games that trip up Bafana, while the tough ones bring the best out of the team.
“It’s going to be tough against Ghana,” Williams said. “They are one of the giants in the continent, but we have played the best of the best and we’ve got positive results against them. We just need to change our mentality, not look at them but focus on our game and our players. We’ve got a lot of players playing overseas now as well. They need to come and help us because they are playing these high-profile games week-in, week-out. They need to help us as a team. But we are much stronger mentally. We don’t need to put much focus on them, obviously they’ve got the world stars but we have shown that if we stick together, the structure is there and we have a good mentality, we can beat all these teams. We need to go there with that mindset, that we can beat them.”
Williams is likely to start in goal for Bafana against Ghana and Sundan after his brilliant displays in Egypt that saw him make the No 1 jersey his own. Coach Molefi Ntseki is targeting at least four points in the two qualifiers, but Williams has his own target.
“We pride ourselves in our defending,” Williams said. “The structure is there. That is vital. It’s something that we have never had before. If you don’t concede, you don’t lose. It’s vital to start these games on a positive note. If we can get two clean sheets, I would be the happiest person alive.”