I did not panic – Igesund
Bafana Bafana boss Gordon Igesund insisted that changes made to the starting line-up that went on to beat Angola 2-0 at the Moses Mabhida Stadium were not an indication of a coach in panic mode but rather a calculated risk.
Following the 0-0 draw against Cape Verde in the opening match of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations at the National Stadium last Saturday, Igesund and his team were under pressure to put up a better performance against the Palancas Negras.
It was an inspired performance they dished up to the appreciating Durban crowd. It was the five changes Igesund effected that appeared to provide the much needed kick. Igesund bravely left out midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Lehlohonolo Majoro, Thabo Matlaba and Kagisho Dikgacoi (through injury).
“A lot of people will look and say the coach has made five changes because he is panicking but I was not panicking. That’s the kind of risk I took and it had nothing to do with panicking. It was the kind of team I put out to win this game today. That’s what it’s about, having a team that you believe in that can go and get the job done,” said Igesund.
Bafana play their last group match against Morocco at the same venue knowing a draw will be sufficient to take them through. Victory will guarantee them a top spot, which will mean they remain in Durban for the quarterfinals. Igesund hinted he could yet make further changes to his line-up.
“Against Morocco it might be another three changes because Morocco and this team that we played here today are totally different, with different type of players and different styles of play,” he said.
Igesund believes the crowd made a huge difference in getting the players going. While there were still a lot of unoccupied seats at the start of the match, the venue filled up by the second half.
“First of all, let me take this opportunity to thank this wonderful crowd here today. From the first whistle to the end they got behind this team; that makes a huge difference. The effort we had against Cape Verde was totally different. The commitment was there but it was a different type of a game. You will see how they play against Morocco. They are not an easy team to beat.
“Today we just had to go for it. I told the players to start believing in themselves. I believe in them. We played four at the back and only one holding midfielder and the rest of them were attacking players. I was confident that the back four and the one holding midfielder would do the job and they did it,” he said.
Questions about the first game against Cape Verde kept coming and the Bafana coach was happy to address them.
“The first game, and I have spoken a lot about this, there was a lot of nerves involved but I don’t think the players were as nervous today. The reason I took my jacket off was because it was hot out there and of course this is a hot seat, I promise you. Of course we are edgy, this game is strange as you can be 2-1 or 2-0 up and all of a sudden you get a goal against you and then you are under pressure. I wanted to make sure they kept their focus and did not allow any chances and they did that. In fact I want to say to every player, even the guys on the bench, that they stood up to be counted,” said Igesund.
“I don’t think it was unjustified criticism. We hadn’t been scoring goals and that’s how people felt. As I said we just need to bounce back and these situations (criticism) make us stronger,” he added.
Bafana took the lead through Orlando Pirates defender Siyabonga Sangweni and that just about broke off the tension.
“When we scored our first goal I was very happy and, as I said, we are going to be a very difficult team to beat. The players were outstanding, although some of them got a lot of criticism. Today they defended better than they did last week and we hope we get the momentum going,” Igesund said.
Bafana are now top of Group A with four points, followed by Cape Verde and Morocco on two, with Angola bottom on a single point. The fat lady has not sung yet as the picture might yet change in the final group matches on Sunday. This much Igesund knows, hence he is not celebrating yet.
“We don’t want to get too excited or carried away. It’s only one win. We need to see what the result is here tonight (1-1 draw between Morocco and Cape Verde) and see what we need in our next game,” he said.
All the final group matches will kick off simultaneously at 7pm CAT (GMT +2). Bafana will remain in Durban for the last match while Cape Verde and Angola will fly to the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Meanwhile, Bafana captain Bongani Khumalo was equally impressed with the victory but cautioned against early celebrations.
“We knew what we had to do today. Nothing less than a win today would have done and we went out and did that. We got a second chance, we played well. We kept a clean sheet and that is very good for our confidence going forward. We made some bold changes today and it paid off.
“It’s important to stay focused and realise that the job is not done yet. We still have another game before we can say we have qualified and that’s our focus, our next game,” said Khumalo.