Keeper Khune aims for a clean sheet against Nigeria
Bafana goalkeeper's plan could prevent the visitors from collecting the whopping R360,000 incentive promised by a Nigeria politician
Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune is determined to keep a clean sheet against Nigeria at the FNB Stadium on Saturday and his plan also could prevent the visitors from collecting the R360,000 incentive they have been offered for every goal they score at the 2010 World Cup venue.
A Nigeria politician got tongues wagging this week when he pledged R360‚000 for every time Nigeria find the back of the net in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier.
But Khune is determined to shut the back door as he is well aware that a clean sheet will go a long way towards qualifying for 2019’s tournament in Cameroon. A win for coach Stuart Baxter’s charges on Saturday would guarantee qualification to the continental showpiece with a match to spare and in the process help soothe the pain of missing out on the 2017 tournament under Ephraim "Shakes" Mashaba.
"It’s a good record [not to concede] for us as a team having kept four clean sheets [during the qualifiers]‚" said Khune. "We have been working hard as a team and have been encouraging all departments to play their part and do well for the team."
Khune‚ who is on the verge of making a record-breaking 91st appearance in a Bafana shirt‚ shares the clean sheet feat with Dennis Onyango of Uganda — the only other African side that has yet to concede a goal in the Afcon qualifiers.
Khune said they would protect their record against a Nigerian side that will be minus injured Odion Ighalo‚ the player who scored five of his six goals in two qualifiers against Libya.
"We are still unbeaten and yet to concede a goal‚ and we’ve scored the most number of goals [eight]‚" he said. "We keep telling ourselves that we must keep our feet on the ground and keep grinding out more [results and clean sheets]."
Khune stressed the importance of retaining their mental edge if they are to secure the result they seek against their old rivals. "We need to be prepared mentally‚ physically and emotionally because we know how tough it is to play against West African countries‚" he said.
"They will want to bully us from the onset but the advantage we have is that we’ve got small players with small frames that are much faster than them.
"They are very tall‚ big and very slow. So those are the things that we need to take advantage of. Moving the ball around quickly and getting into spaces and even utilising the spaces behind their defences will help us win the match."