Sport

Bafana sets sights on reaching Chan final

PJ Van Rooyen

Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund says he knows the players are ready ahead of their Group A opener against Mozambique on Saturday.

Bafana coach Gordon Igesund makes the final preparations with his team before they meet Mozambique. (Gallo)

Bafana Bafana have set their sights on reaching the final of the African Nations Championship (Chan) tournament as the host nation, coach Gordon Igesund said on Friday evening.

"I know the players are ready. I know they are hungry to play this game," Igesund said as the team wrapped up their final preparations ahead of their Group A opener against Mozambique on Saturday.

"Every game we play as a national team, we are very proud to be part of it. We're the hosts and we'd like to do our very best in the tournament.

"There are some very capable teams. It means a lot to us, especially because Fifa have recognised the tournament and the points are involved here."

Having beaten the Mambas on all four of their previous occasions, Igesund will be keen to keep the team's 100% record intact during the tournament at the Cape Town Stadium.

The last meeting between the southern African neighbours marked Igesund's first victory as Bafana coach, after taking over from Pitso Mosimane in September 2012.

Bernard Parker netted either side of half-time and looked set to start for Igesund again on Saturday.

'Closed book'
"They're a little bit of a closed book [Mozambique], but I have to focus on our team," Igesund said. "We need to go out there and do what we have to do. No matter who we play tomorrow, I'm not going to focus too much on them, I'm totally concentrated on what we're going to do. 

"The players know that from the training sessions we've had over the last few days, we're going to apply what we've done over the last week."

The host nation had to contend with late arrivals to the 23-man squad, following negotiations between the Premier Soccer League (PSL) and the South African Football Association (Safa) for clubs to release their players for the event.

In addition, Bafana were unable to organise a practice match against a fellow Chan opponent early in the week, and had to settle for National First Division outfit Milano United to provide some game-time.

Bafana skipper Itumeleng Khune echoed Igesund's sentiments, adding that the players were looking forward to taking on the best the rest of Africa had to offer. "I'm very happy that all of us are competitive in training," Khune said.

"Every tournament, for us as players, we have the responsibility to put smiles on the faces of the nations.

"We respect all the teams that are coming to compete against us. Hopefully we get to the final and win it, because all eyes will be on us in this tournament."

Valuable insight
Igesund said Tuesday's warm-up game provided him with some valuable insight into the dynamics of his young team, who have welcomed new members Lindokuhle Mbatha, Asavela Mbekile and Kwanda Mngonyama to the national fold. 

Despite an injury blow in the form of Kaizer Chiefs fullback Tsepo Masilela, Igesund felt confidence was flowing in the team. He could also call on the likes of Itumeleng Khune, Siphiwe Tshabalala and Parker to steady the ship and guide the youngsters as they start their hunt for continental silverware.

"It's hugely important for us. The other teams that come here weren't just invited, they had to qualify," Igesund said. "The players know the importance of winning the game, we want to get a good vibe going in the country and it's imperative tomorrow that we get off to a good start." – Sapa

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