In a game of football, you need to be able to raise your hand and say that "I can do better, this person isn't better than me, yes he is good but I am also good.'
“There is nothing that we are afraid of,” a confident Sifiso Hlanti said as Bafana Bafana prepares for their tough assignment against the seven-time Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) winners – Egypt – on Saturday.
On paper this should be an easy victory for Egypt. The Pharaohs had a smooth journey to the last 16, winning all of their three games without conceding a goal.
They haven’t even kicked into second gear but are already buzzing with the talented Mohamed Salah leading them. Bafana also haven’t kicked into second gear, and they have been woeful.
They sneaked into the last 16 after winning only one match in their three group games. But Hlanti is confident that they will rise to the occasion on Saturday at 9pm at Cairo International Stadium.
“We also have good players,” Hlanti said. “If we as players can switch on, and we approach the game in a positive manner and attitude, we can make things happen. We aren’t going to give them that respect.
“The reason why I say that is because I have a feeling that we can make things happen, not only for us but as a country as a whole. They have been waiting for so long to get something.
“I am positive. I am positive.”
Hlanti will have the tough task of stopping Salah on Egypt’s right flank. The Bidvest Wits defender has started the tournament on a poor note with three average performances.
This is an opportunity for him to make up for that by stopping the most exciting footballer at the tournament. Salah has already found the back of the net twice – double the number of goals Bafana scored as a team to get to the last 16.
“I won’t put pressure on myself,” Hlanti said of his impending battle with Salah.
“I believe that I can do better. I am not afraid to face anyone at any given time. It’s all about me. If I don’t believe in myself like that, who cares? I have to respect myself before I respect someone else. I am positive, it’s all about hard work.”
He continued, “We as players need to try by all means to not be afraid of making mistakes. The more you gain confidence, that’s when it will be easier for you to challenge and do what you can do best.
“In a game of football, you need to be able to raise your hand and say that, ‘I can do better, this person isn’t better than me, yes he is good but I am also good’.”
Bafana have looked meek in their first three matches, struggling to find their rhythm and scoring touch, and such shortcomings will be costly against a side like Egypt.
“At some point, there are things that we have to realise as humans; that in order for you to go further as a person or to be on another level, you need to face challenges, in a good way,” Hlanti said. “So for us to play against them, it’s going to be something else. We can turn things around.”