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Football | Bafana Bafana

Itumeleng Khune © Backpagepix

Mental strength key for Bafana - Khune



Bafana Bafana captain Itumeleng Khune believes mental strength will be a key component in South Africa’s two crucial away 2014 Fifa World Cup Brazil qualifiers in June.

Gordon Igesund’s men face the Central African Republic (CAR) and Ethiopia in crucial back to back matches in June in what will ultimately shape Bafana’s chances of being part of the Brazil fiesta, come 2014.

In the reverse matches against the two countries, Bafana Bafana played to a goalless draw against Ethiopia in Rustenburg last year, and then defeated CAR 2-0 in a dazzling show in Cape Town last month.

“It was a mixed bag of results in those home games. We would surely have wanted six points against Ethiopia and CAR but the draw against the former didn’t do our cause any good. But we have a chance to correct that in two tough away matches which surely won’t be easy,” said the Bafana captain who is also title contenders Kaizer Chiefs skipper.

“I know many are thinking of the rough conditions out there but we have to discount that and just focus on getting the much-needed six points,” added Khune.

“Mental strength from our players will be key in those two matches. We don’t have to think about anything else but the mission at hand which is to take all six points on offer. If we are to reach the finals in Brazil, we have to be prepared for any conditions. But I believe we have the potential, we have the team, and we also have the coach to help us achieve our goals,” said the bullish Khune.

The agile goalkeeper believes that if Bafana Bafana continues performing as well as they have been doing recently, then there is no reason why they shouldn’t return from CAR encounter and Ethiopia victorious.

“We need to collect all nine points on offer in the remaining three qualifiers and, with due respect to the three nations in our group, I am confident we can collect all nine points.

I played against all three countries and we know what they are capable of. We have to be patient and not panic because they will want to frustrate us especially in the two away matches. We don’t just have to create chances but also take them as well,” said the Bafana Bafana No 1 goal minder.

“The important thing is to focus the entire 90 minutes and the players must be willing to do more than what is required of them to get victory. Talk of going an extra mile and work for each other – that should be the watchword.”

Khune is also cautioning all and sundry that playing at a neutral venue against CAR should not go into the players’ heads as an advantage.

“It really doesn’t matter where we play CAR because they showed glimpses of brilliance when we hosted them which means they can be dangerous. It is after all a game of 90 minutes for both sides and we must be aware that what we can do they can also do. At the end of the day, there are three points at stake, and also the pride of the country,” said the player known as Spider Kid.

“Whether we are playing at home, away or at a neutral venue, we must do our job to the best of our abilities. They played us as though they were at home so we should be mindful of that. We must remember that they also need the points, meaning they won’t make it easier for us.”

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