Bafana captain Thulani Hlatshwayo asks teammates to focus
Team is still drawing confidence from their performance in Afcon 2019 and their shock defeat of hosts Egypt
Bafana Bafana captain Thulani Hlatshwayo says the team’s solid performance at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) gives them confidence that they can compete on an equal footing with a team of the class of Ghana in Cape Coast on Thursday.
Hlatshwayo said Bafana’s ability to match some of Africa’s biggest teams‚ including giving a shock to hosts Egypt in front of a packed Cairo International Stadium in the last 16‚ gives the South Africans confidence going into the 2021 Afcon qualifiers.
Bafana kick off their qualifying campaign against Ghana at the modern 15‚000-seat Cape Coast Stadium‚ then return to meet Sudan at Orlando Stadium on Sunday. SA outperformed Ghana at Egypt 2019 in June and July‚ as the Black Stars exited in the last 16‚ losing on penalties against semifinalists Tunisia.
Hlatshwayo was asked if Bafana’s solid performances in Egypt boosted the often fragile national team’s confidence going into the qualifiers for Cameroon 2021.
“Without a doubt‚” the captain said. “Because when you look at all our games at Afcon‚ when we conceded it was a lack of concentration‚ transition from a set piece‚ not clearing the ball.
“But we managed to contain all those teams‚ as big as they are. And then coming back to beat Mali [2-1 in a friendly in October].
“It’s something that needs to motivate us — beating Egypt‚ conceding in the last minute against Nigeria.
“It’s just concentration levels to prevent such goals. That’s something that we need to work on against Ghana — and make sure that we keep zero.”
Bafana competed on an equal footing‚ if somewhat conservative in approach‚ with three 2018 Russia World Cup qualifiers at Afcon 2019. They lost in the last three minutes against Morocco‚ beat Egypt 1-0 and lost in the final minute against Nigeria in the quarters.
Ghana‚ of course‚ remain every bit as dangerous a combination to Bafana. Ghana might have dropped out of the tournament earlier at Egypt 2019, but unlike SA — who scraped into the last 16 as the fourth-best third-placed finisher in their group — the Black Stars topped Group F unbeaten from a win and two draws.