Bongani Zungu says he is a more complete player since becoming Vitoria Guimaraes’s key midfielder as Bafana Bafana prepare to meet Nigeria on Saturday.
Having established himself not just in Guimaraes’s first team‚ but as the midfielder to whom his teammates feed the ball to make the team tick‚ Zungu could be a key player for Bafana in Uyo.
"I’m happy to be back. It’s been a while. Everyone knows I’ve been struggling with injury‚" Zungu said after Bafana’s training at FNB Stadium on Tuesday.
"The preparations are going well. We’re looking forward to Nigeria," he said.
"If I get a chance, I’ll make sure I grab it with both hands. It’s very important for the nation that we have good competition [in the squad].
"We also have very good midfielders who play locally.
"It’s exciting. I’m looking forward to taking my experience from Portugal and bringing it here. And also help the younger guys like Percy [Tau]‚ just to give them that motivation that maybe one day they can go and play abroad," he said.
"If I get a chance‚ I’ll make sure I’ll kill it, man."
Zungu joined Vitoria in June 2016 as a free agent, having not played for several weeks for Mamelodi Sundowns due to a shin injury.
It took time for him to fully rehabilitate‚ and missing the off-season delayed his breakthrough into the first team.
Once Zungu did, though‚ he did not look back‚ with 18 league games‚ 15 of which were starts and 16 of which were in 2017.
The big midfielder has also become the target of bigger clubs – notably Benfica.
The central midfielder’s game will have naturally developed in the closed spaces of European football.
"I believe I’m quicker with my decision-making when I have the ball. It’s also the environment in Europe‚" he said.
"The stadiums are always full and you gain confidence. So, the confidence is up."
Zungu scored an equaliser in the Portuguese Cup final against Benfica 10 days ago‚ though Guimaraes slipped to a 2-1 defeat.
"I’m proud of myself for the goal. Unfortunately, we lost. But we gave a good fight‚ because they had beaten us 5-0 in a league match‚" he said.
"It was a good game, a very intense game. I’m proud of myself, but it would have been better if I got the goal as a winner." Bafana leave for Nigeria for their opening 2019 Africa Nations Cup qualifier on Wednesday.