South Africa - tumbling down Fifa's rankings - can "shock people" and make a bold bid to win the African Cup of Nations, coach Gordon Igesund said.
Igesund said his squad, hard hit by injury, the retirement from international football of captain Steven Pienaar and a match fixing scandal that led to a temporary suspension of top officials, was on the right path.
"I'm very confident that the team can go out and shock people," he told a media conference on Monday as the South African squad continued their pre-tournament preparations for the three-week finals, which start on January 19.
"This is a new era for the team, everyone one in the squad is very competitive and fighting for their place in the starting line-up. I think the squad is well balanced and I'm very excited about what they can deliver."
Garnering SA support
Igesund said Bafana Bafana, who won when they previously hosted the 1996 Nations Cup, could go all the way to the winners' podium on February 10 but would need a more hearty support from a sceptical South African public.
"We are hosting the tournament and it is important to get the public behind us and for them to start believing in the team. We can really go far with good passion from the people."
"We are looking for a complete turnaround from what people have seen in past games. We are going to play with flair. Fans don't realise what kind of lift their support can give the players," Igesund added.
Ticket sales for the tournament have been slow, officials said. Afcon traditionally suffers from empty stands for matches not involving the host nation. – Reuters