Bafana Bafana will be going into Saturday’s match with only one purpose before them, that is, to win the match against Congo and be closer to qualifying for next year’s Afcon finals. This was said by the team’s current mentor, Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba after the team’s safe arrival in the Congo coastal city of Pointe Noire on Thursday. The match which will be played at the Stade Municipial de Pointe Noire on Saturday, 11 October kickoff time being at 4.30pm (SA time) will pit the group’s top two teams as far as current results are concerned. Both teams have not lost in their two opening matches and will both be seeking to extend their lead and therefore assure themselves of a spot in the finals next year.
Mashaba was the first national team coach to beat this Congo after South Africa’s return to open competitions. In addition, of the eight encounters between the two teams, Bafana have only lost once, coming tops in half of the games. When confronted with this statistics about his and Bafana Bafana’s performance, Shakes could only sound unusual caution. He said “ Sports and mathematics don’t belong together. You don’t have ‘therefore’ in football. In my view stats don’t have a big role in these games, there are no guarantees because it is about now. It is another day, it is another game. We all have to come up with new ideas, a new approach and new commitment from the players as well.” He reminded everyone that they needed to remember that South Africa had not won any matches in a long time in major tournaments, adding that this was the time to rid themselves of the losing mentality. “That is why we are not here for a draw… We have to win this one and the home leg, then we will have one foot in Morocco.”
Turning to the match itself, Mashaba cautioned that he expected it to be a physical encounter which would need a strong match official. Asked if he felt himself under pressure, his response was, “I don’t feel any pressure at all. The only time I feel pressure is when I have dinner because I know if I don’t finish the food my wife will ask where I had food before coming home.” His team concluded their preparations at the match venue on Friday afternoon.
In his squad to face the Congo, Shakes Mashaba has named a few interesting players. The most interesting is Rivaldo Coetzee to play in the central defender role. Rivaldo is set to be the youngest player ever to don the South African national soccer team jersey at the age of 17 years, 11 months, 26 days when he plays the match. He beats the current holder, former Bafana captain Aaron Mokoena who made his senior national team debut when he was 18 years, two months, 26 days old. The coach has retained Senzo Meyiwa as the first choice goalkeeper in the absence of Khune who is still nursing an injury. Meyiwa also replaces Khune as the team’s skipper for the day. Mashaba has also selected Thulani Serero, who missed the two opening campaigns in the qualifiers against Sudan and Nigeria. The rest of the squad is as follows;
Bafana Starting XI: Meyiwa (c), Matlaba, Mathoho, Coetzee, Hlatshwayo, Furman, Jali, Masango, Serero, Rantie, Ndulula.
Subs: Keet, Khumalo, Vilakazi, Mashamaite, Letsholonyane, Manyisa, Erasmus.