Time for Bafana to move up the gears
South Africa have had an underwhelming build-up to the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, but the opening match of the tournament against Cape Verde at the National Stadium in Soweto on Saturday evening presents them with a chance to silence their critics, kick-off at 6pm.
While it is true that most pundits have written off the host nation’s hopes of repeating the heroics of 1996 when Bafana Bafana won the trophy on debut on home soil, coach Gordon Igesund has remained defiantly optimistic.
Wednesday’s announcement that the squad has foregone any talks over bonuses until the quarterfinals suggests that they are focused and united in their goals for the tournament - something past Bafana teams have not managed.
Yet goals - or rather the scoring of them - remains the main stumbling block between Igesund’s side and progressing to the quarterfinals. Bafana seem to lack the necessary potency up front to really trouble the continent’s best.
That could be solved by playing a more attacking line-up that features two strikers, most likely Katlego Mphela and Bernard Parker - yet that will have to be weighed up against the chance of being outnumbered in midfield.
With Cape Verde boasting a strong defence that will be marshalled by the likes of captain Nando and Guy Ramos, Bafana may have no choice but to opt for the extra firepower.
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Parker, who is currently co-top scorer in the PSL, believes the host side will put aside their recent troubles and come good against the islanders.
“I believe in my teammates and I have no doubt that we will turn the tide come Saturday. We are all motivated and looking forward to giving it our all for the country, starting with Cape Verde,” said Parker.
The good news for Bafana is that they have a 100 percent record against the ‘Blue Sharks’, having beaten the islanders 2-1 on both occasions (2006 World Cup qualifiers) that the teams have met in official matches.
Cape Verde coach Lucio Antunes, a man who has worked miracles in helping the tiny nation qualify for AFCON for the first time in their history, believes the pressure on the host side will play to his advantage.
"I think that the pressure will be on South Africa since they are at home in the first match," said the former air traffic controller.