CAPE TOWN - Football doesn’t allow for any lengthy bouts of festivity - blink and it’s time to prepare for the next 90 minutes. After Cape Town City’s superb victory in eliminating Orlando Pirates from the Nedbank Cup on Wednesday, their focus has already shifted.
They’ve had to come down from the euphoria of the 1-0 win against the Buccaneers at Cape Town Stadium because the next game, the next competition, is just two days away.
On Sunday, City host Mozambique’s Costa do Sol in a Caf Confederation Cup first round, second leg tie at Athlone Stadium (4pm kickoff) - and, no doubt, coach Benni McCarthy’s men want to tap into the feel-good mood of the Pirates triumph. City beat Costa do Sol 1-0 in the first leg.
McCarthy, in keeping with his attitude of trusting and believing in every member of his squad, has used the continental inter-club competition to rotate his players. It has allowed him to provide game time for the rest of the squad, so that they are ready when they are needed during times of injury or suspension.
And the players haven’t disappointed: youngsters like Shane Roberts and Zukile Kewuti have used the opportunity to grow their experience, while Ebrahim Seedat, Tshepo Gumede, Kwanda Mngonyama, Sibusiso Masina and Nana Akosah-Bempah have been able to stay on top of their game to prevent rust from creeping in.
The City coach will again make wholesale changes to the starting team on Sunday and very few who featured in the Pirates success will play against Costa do Sol.
But, rest assured, irrespective of who is selected, every member of the squad will be there in full support of whoever plays; the one aspect of this team that hasn’t changed since the club’s inception in 2016 is team spirit and unity.
Despite City’s determination to look forward and not dwell too much on the win over Pirates, in order to prepare for the Mozambicans on Sunday, it’s just as important that they reflect on the positives of that performance.
As McCarthy suggests, the result was “an incredible morale booster”, especially considering how well the Soweto club has been playing in recent weeks.
“We had to plan carefully,” said McCarthy. “The plan was always to exploit the fact that Pirates attack with four or five players and it leaves them vulnerable at the back. We used (Lyle) Lakay and Surprise (Ralani) to get in behind them - and that’s also how we got the goal.”
While McCarthy can take his share of the credit for the astute game approach, every single City player on the night deserved massive credit for the stoic implementation of the plan. For the opening 70 minutes, they played with great poise and quick-passing precision; and during the final 20 minutes, they defended stoutly, as if their very lives depended on it.
Now, as McCarthy sends what is likely to be a changed starting team to face Costa do Sol, it’s important that those selected take a leaf from the passion and commitment of the players who played against Pirates, and do the very same on Sunday.
“After the high we’ve been on beating Pirates, it was inevitable that this would happen. I know my boys will be up for another match of this calibre. It’s no problem for us when we are at home!” #iamCityFC #NedbankCup pic.twitter.com/oFD5gSgWnm