Thembinkosi Lorch primed for lift-off at Africa Cup of Nations
Pirates striker is set to get a run against hosts Egypt in the last-16 showdown on Saturday
Cairo — Many SA supporters have called for the inclusion of Thembinkosi Lorch in the Bafana Bafana team at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Egypt.
And with Themba Zwame — Bafana’s standout striker of a poor bunch at Afcon — being suspended, Lorch is set to get a run against hosts Egypt in the last-16 showdown on Saturday.
Orlando Pirates’ Lorch, the skilled attacker, whose improved vision was probably the biggest factor in him winning Footballer and Players’ Player of the season at the Premier Soccer League awards at the end of the 2018-19 campaign, has yet to get a run at the Afcon.
He and Mamelodi Sundowns’ versatile attacker Sibusiso Vilakazi — used as a substitute twice, and who started in the 1-0 win against Namibia — would appear to be the choices to fill the void left by Zwane.
“I’m not going to talk about Themba’s suspension. It’s the coach who decides who will play,” Lorch said on Thursday.
“I just have to wait for my chance, and if I get it, grab it with both hands. Things like this happen in football. You just have to be strong and wait for your chance. And when it comes, use it.
“I’m ready if I get thrown in the deep end. I know it has been a long time for me not playing.”
Supporters in SA have reacted angrily to the conservative football that saw Bafana sneak into the last-16 as effectively the weakest qualifiers — the fourthbest of the third-placed finishers to go through.
Lorch’s absence has been a populist source of frustration as SA lost 1-0 to the classy combinations of Morocco and Ivory Coast, and scraped past Namibia. Bafana scored just the one goal in those three games and hardly had a shot on target.
“I don’t want to comment on that,” the Pirates man said.
Getting a run in the globally televised last-16 match-up (kickoff 9pm) against the hosts at their Cairo International Stadium cauldron, though, could make the wait worthwhile.
“It’s going to be a big game for us. It’s Egypt, in front of their supporters,” Lorch said. “We just have to show that we also have good players in our team. We have to show our experience and our talent.
“It motivates us that everyone expects Egypt to win. We didn’t play well from our first game. So this one, everyone wants to make our nation, and our supporters, proud.”
For Bafana’s Bidvest Wits, SuperSport United, Pirates and Sundowns players, the experience of playing in front of hostile crowds in the Caf Champions League and Confederation Cup can help them cope with the 75,000 wall of red they will encounter on Saturday.
And besides the passionate support for the home team, Bafana will have to contend with Egypt’s wingers.
Liverpool hitman Mohamed Salah, on the right, is finding momentum with two goals, and has shown his class. In-form left wing Trézéguet has been the Pharaohs’ best attacker. Influential right-back Ahmed Elmohamady has two goals.
Coach Javier Aguirre’s football might not have caught the imagination of the Egyptian public, but his team are immensely disciplined and tough to break down, and ominously precise in attack.