“We are not just playing teams in our group to qualify, we have raised the bar to say that we want to win the group”
MOLEFI Ntseki is exactly the kind of coach Bafana Bafana needed following a time of underachievement due to a lack of self belief.
Under Stuart Baxter, caution was always the way to go for the country’s senior national team – the Scotsman hardly ever talking confidently about the team’s chances of success.
Not so Ntseki.
And while some will definitely point to it as naivety on the part of the new man, the reality is that “if you believe it, you can achieve it”.
Fresh from winning his first match in charge of Bafana courtesy of a 2-1 victory over Mali in the Nelson Mandela Challenge in Port Elizabeth at the weekend, Ntseki looked ahead to the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers starting next month with the kind of attitude that will send fear into the opposition while inspiring his players.
“We are not just playing teams in our group to qualify, we have raised the bar to say that we want to win the group,” Ntseki said without flinching. “Winning the group means every game you are playing is important because you can’t drop points.”
Granted Bafana qualified for Egypt 2019 unbeaten, but they dropped points in such a way that they were still not guaranteed qualification in their final group match. Ntseki was there as the assistant and being a man of high standards he would love to make Bafana cruise to Cameroon 2021.
“If the attitude is right, we will always conquer. But it is all about what we believe in and what we want to see happening.”
Bafana are in Group C along with Ghana, Sudan and Sao Tome.
They begin their qualifying campaign with back-to-back clashes away to Ghana on November 14 and then host Sudan five days later.
The rest of the qualifying home and away matches will determine the top two countries from the group to go to the finals in Cameroon that will be played next year.
“If we win the group it will also help us in terms of CAF and Fifa rankings. The attitude that we have in the team is to do well in the qualifiers and win the group.”
Speaking of attitude, Ntseki is aware of Bafana’s recent history of doing well against top teams but choking against the supposedly weaker ones and will be out to change that.
“On the mental side of our players we are working very hard on that. There’s no small teams with us. There’s no big teams with us. We are all on the same level. We are all competing for the three points. We are all competing to qualify but we still want to win the group.”
And given he started his tenure with a win, you cannot help but take him seriously.
The 2-1 victory over Mali, thanks to goals by Dean Furman and Themba Zwane, ensured Bafana stretched their unbeaten run in the Nelson Mandela Challenge to six years.
Next up is to be unbeaten in the Afcon 2021 qualifiers for Ntseki and Bafana.