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Football | Bafana Bafana

Katlego Mphela © Backpagepix

Sangweni scare, Mphela pumped up



Bafana Bafana defender Siyabonga Sangweni has hurt his ankle ahead of the side's opening Group A 2014 World Cup soccer qualifier against Ethiopia in Rustenburg, on Sunday.

Sangweni suffered the injury in the morning training session on Tuesday. The extent of his injury would be known only later in the evening.

"He's going for a scan in the afternoon, and will miss the afternoon training session," said team spokesman Matlhomola Morake.

"We will await for the doctor [Paul Maphoto] to give us feedback on the latest situation."

Sangweni, who has had an outstanding season for Premiership champions Orlando Pirates, is expected to partner Morgan Gould in central defence in the tie – if he is fit.

Meanwhile, Bafana's preparations for the weekend encounter were still in meticulous mode, with top striker Katlego Mphela stating plans of unlocking the "stubborn" Ethiopian defence at Royal Bafokeng Stadium.

The east Africans, ranked 138th in the world, are a plucky unit that can halt Bafana's ambitions.

They had an impressive run in the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year, and despite not qualifying, earned a credible 2-2 draw against Nigeria in one of the fixtures.

Ethiopia finished third in the campaign, behind the west Africans and Guinea, who progressed through to the finals.

"They are stubborn at the back, and we cannot underestimate them," the Mamelodi Sundowns player said.

"Because of the past results and the pressure on us, six points [including next week's game against Botswana in Gaborone] are non-negotiable.

"We all know goal scoring has been a problem, but I believe with time we will get it right.

HEALTHY COMPETITION FOR STRIKERS

"There is a healthy competition for strikers, which is good, with Siyabonga Nomvethe and Eleazar Rodgers doing well in the league."

Mphela, who is also in search of his best form after an average club season, noted the Black Lions' potential prowess upfront.

They will be led by his one-time SuperSport United teammate, Fikru Tefera, who also worked under Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane in his time with the Tshwane side.

To Bafana's credit, and despite the poor results, the team has mastered the art of playing swift football.

"We have to move the ball very quickly to open up space for ourselves," he said.

"I think they [Ethiopia] are a dangerous team. For them to be where they are now, participating in the group stages, they did well."

While Belgian-based wingback Anele Ngcongca has little information on Ethiopia, he expects a hard-running fixture in a crucial must-win game for the hosts.

After Bafana's dismal showing in the Afcon qualifiers, the pressure is on them to start delivering performances ahead of next year's continental showpiece.

"There is always pressure [to perform]," Ngcongca said.

"First of all, we are playing a team that I think we don't know much about. They know more about us. It will not be an easy game. What I do know about Ethiopia is that they have a lot of energy and are fighters.

"But let's hope we come out on top on the day."

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