Home Sport Lyle Foster returns for Bafana World Cup qualifiers while Relebohile Mofokeng is...

Lyle Foster returns for Bafana World Cup qualifiers while Relebohile Mofokeng is rewarded

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Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos put his head on the block and named a strong preliminary squad for the Fifa World Cup qualifiers against Nigeria and Zimbabwe next month.

Burnley’s South African striker Lyle Foster celebrates scoring his team first goal during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Tottenham Hotspur at Turf Moor in Burnley, north-west England on September 2, 2023. Picture: Paul ELLIS, AFP

Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos is not leaving anything to chance after naming a strong 36-member preliminary squad for the Fifa World Cup qualifiers against Nigeria and Zimbabwe next month.

Bafana will face Nigeria at Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo on June 7, before facing neighbours Zimbabwe at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein four days later.

These are two matches that South Africa need to win at all costs, after losing their last qualifier away to minnows Rwanda, following the win over Benin in Group C.

Broos also knows that he can’t leave any stone unturned if they are to build on the third-place finish at the Africa Cup of Nations and return to the 2026 global showpiece in the US, Mexico and Canada.

The goalkeeping department has the usual suspects, with captain Ronwen Williams leading the team, while there’s Ricardo Goss, Veli Mothwa and Bruce Bvuma.

Bvuma was a light during a dark time for Kaizer Chiefs in the past few months, keeping seven clean sheets in eight matches across all competitions.

However, he has struggled to a keep clean sheet lately.

And with Mothwa returning to the team after missing out on the Fifa series pilot project in Algeria due to form, it’s unlikely that Bvuma will make the final cut come early next week.

Bafana will need to have a solid defensive line for the two clashes, especially with the Super Eagles boasting a potent attack that includes Atalanta’s Ademola Lookman.

The defensive unit is largely made up of Mamelodi Sundowns players, with six Masandawana stars getting a call-up, and rightfully so.

Sundowns have had one of the best defensive records in the league, having only conceded nine goals, and are yet to lose a game.

Mothobi Mvala, Grant Kekana, Khuliso Mudau and Aubrey Modiba also formed a solid defensive line at the Afcon, and Broos might want to continue with that in the World Cup qualifiers.

But while Broos will be confident of his team keeping another clean sheet, the spine of the team – the midfielders – must be strong as well.

There’s still uncertainty on whether Teboho Mokoena will be fit for the qualifiers, having been sidelined at Sundowns for some time after sustaining an injury last month.

However, with Bathusi Aubass also picking up form at the right time for the Brazilians, Broos shouldn’t have problems in the midfield if Mokoena is not yet fit.

Jayden Adams is also becoming an integral part of the national team, having been part and parcel of the side that claimed bronze at the Afcon.

While Adams has scored important goals for Stellenbosch FC, he’ll hope that his club teammate Iqraam Rayners takes his scoring form to the national team.

Rayners has 14 league goals, one behind Tshegofatso Mabasa, whose omission from the preliminary squad has raised some eyebrows, given his blistering form for Orlando Pirates.

All eyes will be on Percy Tau and Lyle Foster, though. Tau had a poor performance at the Afcon, and Broos didn’t call him up for the Fifa series.

Another person of interest will be Foster, given that he didn’t travel with the team to the Afcon due to mental issues, and decided to remain with his club Burnley.

So, whether he’ll honour the call-up should he get the nod for the final squad remains to be seen, as the English Premier League would have come to an end as well, with Burnley already having been relegated.

But one person who’ll be happy with his preliminary call-up is Pirates’ 19-year-old sensation, Relebohile Mofokeng, as he’s had an impressive full debut season.

Alongside Patrick Maswanganyi, who’s set to be one of the nominees for the Footballer of the Season, Mofokeng has made Mabasa shine.

The duo, though, will be eager to take that momentum to the national team and feed the likes of Tau, Foster and Themba Zwane, if they make the final 23-man group.

Bafana Preliminary Squad

Goalkeepers: Ronwen Williams, Bruce Bvuma, Ricardo Goss, Veli Mothwa

Defenders: Sydney Mobbie, Innocent Maela, Given Msimango, Khuliso Mudau, Siyabonga Ngezana, Thabiso Monyane, Nkosinathi Sibisi, Mothobi Mvala, Terrence Mashego, Grant Kekana, Thapelo Morena, Aubrey Modiba, Tapelo Xoki, Thabo Maloisane

Midfielders: Teboho Mokoena, Bathusi Aubaas, Grant Margeman, Sphephelo Sithole, Jayden Adams

Forwards: Themba Zwane, Patrick Maswanganyi, Tshepang Moremi, Evidence Makgopa, Mihlali Mayambela, Devin Titus, Mlondi Mbanjwa, Elias Mokwana, Percy Tau, Oswin Appollis, Iqraam Rayners, Lyle Foster, Relebohile Mofokeng

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