Pienaar: I’m back and smiling

South African soccer captain Steven Pienaar is relishing the challenge of facing Côte d’Ivoire in a Nelson Mandela Challenge match on Saturday, the South African Football Association (Safa) said in a statement on Wednesday.

“It’s a pleasure to be back and I’m looking forward to the match,” said Pienaar.

The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder hasn’t played for Bafana Bafana since March when the team secured a 1-0 victory over Egypt in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at Ellis Park.

He travelled with the squad for the return leg in Cairo, but could not play after failing to recover from an injury he sustained on the eve of departure to Egypt.

“It was very sad when I missed so many games and I hope to put the disappointment behind me … It was frustrating times for me and not being able to contribute to the team left me feeling helpless on the sidelines, but I had to make a decision regarding the operation I had to solve my problem, so I am just happy to be back and smiling again,” said Pienaar.

Tough match
The livewire midfielder said he was well aware of what to expect from Cote d’Ivoire.

“It’s going to be a tough match. We must make the best of it. We have a lot of youngsters in the squad but we know we can mix it with the best in the business … Our challenge in not scoring goals has been in the final third because we create a lot of chances but make wrong decisions … With time it will get better.”

Pienaar said it was very disappointing that the team failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations, but stressed they had to put that setback behind them and move on.

The match will be played at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth. — Sapa

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