Cairo — Ronwen Williams had a feeling he might start for Bafana Bafana in their opening Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) match against Ivory Coast when he was named to play in the friendly that fell through at the last moment against Angola last week.
Williams had an excellent game against the Elephants, dispelling any notion that he was not able to perform at international level.
SuperSport United’s 27-year-old goalkeeper was a surprise choice ahead of Darren Keet, who had a stunning display in the 2-1 win against Libya in Tunisia in March which clinched qualification to Afcon.
Bafana coach Stuart Baxter said he opted for the athleticism of Williams over the height and solidity of Keet in a horses for courses swap because Ivory Coast attack more down the middle than the wings.
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It was still a brave decision. Williams had for a long time seemed to struggle to recover from a 5-0 humiliation Bafana suffered against Brazil in March 2014 when he was in goal at the tender age of 22.
The backlash would have been immense if Baxter’s decision backfired. Clearly Williams had also done enough in the three-week training camp to convince the coach he was ready.
Having stood tall against the ominous attacking presence of Nicolas Pepe and Jonathan Kodjia on Monday, Williams looks set to begin his international keeping career in earnest now.
“The [1-0] loss was a bitter pill to swallow, though I played my part well,” Williams said at Bafana’s training ground at Cairo’s Aero Sports Centre.
“But that’s not what it’s about. It’s about the results. Though I am happy to have played my part. I mean this is only the start for me coming from where I come from. I’ve always believed in myself.
“Last year when I played Paraguay [in a 1-1 friendly in Durban], coming on in the second half for Darren — for me that was the turning point.
“I didn’t concede, and I played my part in the goal with my distribution to Dino [Ndlovu]. And last week when we played Ghana [in a friendly in Dubai] I had a very good game too [replacing Keet again].
“I think that was the turning point for the coach, to see that I am focused and I am a lot more mature now in my outlook and performances.
“I don’t make as many silly mistakes as before. It feels good. I’ve worked hard — I haven’t given up when many people have written me off.”