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Football | Bafana Bafana

Gordon Igesund © Backpagepix

Bafana can do it - Igesund

With less than 10 days to the start of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, national team coach Gordon Igesund has talked up Bafana Bafana’s chances at the continental showpiece.

Speaking to select football writers at a lunch event organised by broadcasters SuperSport on Thursday, Igesund said it was important for the nation to rally behind the team and be positive. He added that any negative comments and criticism would only contribute to the downfall of the team.

Results in friendly matches played ahead of the Afcon have not been entirely positive; the last being a 1-0 defeat against Norway in Cape Town. The final preparation match will be against African opposition, and strong opposition at that -- Algeria on Saturday at Orlando Stadium. Kick-off will be at 8:30pm live on SS HD4, SS4 and supersport.com.

But results in friendly matches have been the last thing on Igesund’s mind. His focus, he said, was to prepare the team well for the Afcon challenge.

“It’s been fantastic. Iit’s been a tough road ahead of us. It’s been very exciting for everyone. Yes it’s a new era and we are only nine days away from the kick-off of the Africa Cup of Nations. There’s excitement on the streets and the players can feel the vibe and are reacting very well to that,” said Igesund.

The Bafana coach said the players were very motivated and anxious to get that first game behind them. “It’s going to be tough. Everyone saw how Cape Verde played against Nigeria last night (Wednesday). They are a very formidable team and very physical but we are hosting the tournament and will be ready for that game,” he said.

While the tournament organisers have taken a lot of flak for the manner in which they have gone about in promoting (or not promoting) the tournament, Igesund believes that support has been great for Bafana, especially from the fans.

“As I mentioned, the vibe has been fantastic. We played in Cape Town and there was a crowd of 40 000 there cheering the team. Durban and Johannesburg have also been fantastic and we are looking forward to the tournament. We know, and the supporters know, that we can only be successful through their support. They have to be our 12th man, even our 13th man, and I hope they do get behind us but I know they will,” he said.

“The players are aware of the expectations and are fully committed. They have been working very hard as they know there’s no bigger occasion than this. We need to make South Africa proud. We need to do our job on the playing field and they will do their part on the stands,” he added.

On his mandate to at least take the team to the semifinals, the former Moroka Swallows coach was unfazed. “I never think about that. It’s a job I’ve got and whichever job I take, I want to win. It’s the same this time around. We will work very hard and try to get to the final. Two things are going to happen: either we are going to get to the final or we are not going to get to the final. All I know is that we can be honest with ourselves and work very hard and not shirk any responsibility. Planning must be good and preparation must also be good,” he said.

“I have a great technical team, a lot of great people behind me and Safa has given me all the support that I need. The PSL has also given me all the support I need and we are all looking forward to the start of the tournament.

“Without a doubt I believe we have the potential (to get to the final). I know time has been very short and maybe we might have a shortfall here and there but we’ll overcome that with passion and commitment,” Igesund added.

Igesund said the only thing left was for the players to transfer what they have worked on to the field of play on match day.

“The players believe in themselves. They believe in what’s happening and if we can just transform what I have seen them do at training onto the playing field that will be a big thing. The team is now playing with a lot of confidence,” he said.

The coach said he has seen what his Group A opponents are capable of. He watched a physical Cape Verde play to a draw against tournament favourites Nigeria on Wednesday. He also watched Morocco against Zambia in a friendly recently. Igesund will be watching Angola in a practice match against his former club, Swallows, in Soweto.

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