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Bafana must hit ground running


“Going to the World Cup would be good for all of us. All that is important is for the team to have tactical and social cohesion.”

BAFANA Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki and the team’s doctor, Dr Thulani Ngwenya, described the side’s preparation for their clash with Ghana on Thursday as “challenging”.

Ntseki will not have much time to work with his players due to the short turnaround of the back-to-back 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers and the travelling involved.

Bafana flew out of South Africa to Ghana last night. They will land in Accra, meet up with the overseas-based players who will fly straight to Ghana’s capital, and then drive to Cape Coast where they will take on the Black Stars on Thursday. They will then fly out of Ghana the following day after the match to prepare for their tie with Sudan on Sunday at Orlando Stadium.

It’s a punishing schedule that will test the coach’s acumen, medical team and players’ resolve with these two matches important in Bafana’s ambitions of booking a spot at the continental showpiece in Cameroon.

“This is one of the most challenging camps – I won’t say difficult – in terms of getting the players ready for the game and also giving some time for the coach to prepare technically,” Ngwenya said at the Crowne Plaza in Sandton.

Travel schedule

“Our travel schedule basically means that our coach will have one formal, or rather, full session with the team before the game against Ghana, and one full session for the game against Sudan.

“So, what it essentially means is that when we arrive in Ghana we have to hit the ground running. The first day of our camp was mainly for recuperation because some players played yesterday (on Sunday) and others on Saturday.”

The locally-based players held a light training session at Sturrock Park yesterday before flying out of South Africa.

“We are also cognisant of the fact that there are players from Cape Town City who played under hot conditions in Thohoyandou, and they travelled by bus to arrive at 3am (yesterday in Johannesburg),” Ngwenya said.

“We need to get those players ready for Thursday. There’s inclusion of travelling there which will impact on the loading I am glad that the coach understands that the physical conditioning of the players, as much as he needs more time for technical preparation, but he can’t prepare bodies that are tired, bodies that can’t do the job for him.

He understands that he has to make the most of the one session he will use to prepare for Ghana.”

Despite these challenges, Ntseki has to hit the ground running in his first assignment since taking over from Stuart Baxter who led the Bafana to the quarter-finals of Afcon back in July.

“Us coming into camp for the first time was very important because we wanted to lay the base and to present ourselves to the nation and everybody, including the players to say that we have a plan,” Ntseki said. “Having a plan means that we have to achieve something. We shouldn’t always be referring to what happened in the past. If Tyson (captain Thulani Hlatshwayo) and Dean Furman, for example, have to retire in the next two to three years, they should be able to retire saying that I have achieved so much.

“What is important for us is to qualify for the Afcon and World Cup. Going into Afcon, anything is possible if we do things right and get the support, luck and wisdom that we need, we will be able to conquer Africa.

“Going to the World Cup would be good for all of us. All that is important is for the team to have tactical and social cohesion.”

BAFANA will also approach the clash with Ghana with a hint of caution, looking to at least come back with a point.

Four points out of six wouldn’t be a bad start for Ntseki and a team who have to live up to their performance in the 2019 Afcon in Egypt, where they knocked out the hosts and reached the quarter-finals for the first time on foreign soil since Mali 2000.

“As we speak, we have a point, so it is for us to protect that point against Ghana,” Ntseki said. “It is for us to go out there and maybe during moments of the game take advantage and maybe win the game. But we aren’t going to go out there like we did against Mali and we pull out all the guns.

“We have to be very careful, starting on the front foot can easily get us a goal early and unsettle Ghana, in Ghana.

“At the same time, if you give Ghana too much possession, they can easily hurt you because they are at home. They will have the support and the confidence will be growing.

“It’s a game that one has to be cautious in how we approach it. We need to manage the phases of the game very well, and that is why we are talking about players with experience, players who have been here before and players who have played at the highest level.

These are the players who did well against Egypt, these are the players who did well against Nigeria at home.

“Our tactical strategy has to be one of being protective, but at the same time we shouldn’t be dropping too deep and giving them possession.”

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