Bafana Bafana will approach their clash with Ghana on Thursday with a hint of caution, looking to at least come back with a point in their opening match of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers.
Bafana take on Ghana in Cape Coast in what will be a short turnaround for the team that flew out of the country yesterday. Three days after this match they will take on Sudan at Orlando Stadium, where coach Molefi Ntseki is eyeing a win.
Four points out of six wouldn’t be a bad start for Ntseki and a team who have to live up to their performance in the 2019 Afcon in Egypt, where they knocked out the hosts and reached the quarter-finals for the first time on foreign soil since Mali 2000.
“As we speak, we have a point, so it is for us to protect that point against Ghana,” Ntseki said at Crowne Plaza in Rosebank yesterday.
“It is for us to go out there and maybe during moments of the game take advantage and maybe win the game. But we aren’t going to go out there like we did against Mali and we pull out all the guns. We have to be very careful, starting on the front foot can easily get us a goal early and unsettle Ghana, in Ghana.
“At the same time, if you give Ghana too much possession, they can easily hurt you because they are at home. They will have the support and the confidence will be growing.
“It’s a game that one has to be cautious in how we approach it. We need to manage the phases of the game very well, and that is why we are talking about players with experience, players who have been here before and players who have played at the highest level. These are the players who did well against Egypt, these are the players who did well against Nigeria at home.
“Our tactical strategy has to be one of being protective, but at the same time we shouldn’t be dropping too deep and giving them possession.”
Ntseki left without the injured Themba Zwane, who was replaced by Lebogang Manyama.
The team welcomed back Sifiso Hlanti and Thamsanqa Mkhize, who missed the Nelson Mandela Challenge against Mali due to injuries.
Innocent Maela and Thapelo Morena slotted in for the pair and did well, offering the team stability at the back as well as attacking threat with their marauding runs.
Ntseki has a tough task in choosing which fullbacks to go with against a Ghanian team that brought seven new faces in for the match.
“What works for us also is that Lebo Mothiba played over the weekend, and he scored two goals,” Ntseki said.
“Coming into the national team, it will bring some confidence because the last time we had Lebo in the Afcon, he didn’t enjoy it much (in terms of goal scoring). We hope him scoring over the weekend will see him bring energy and confidence into the team because the two matches are very important for us.
“We have Kamohelo Mokotjo who also scored over the weekend, and he assisted, which also works well for us.
“We were also happy to hear that Bongani (Zungu) also had some playing minutes. We feel that our overseas-based players, if they do get minutes, will bring a lot of confidence into our team going into these matches.”