Bafana Complete Gambia Preparations

Bafana Bafana have completed preparation for their opening CAF Orange Africa Cup of Nations Gabon 2017 qualifier against Gambia which will take place on Saturday, 13 June at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.  Kick-off is at 15:00.  The South Africans held their final training session at match venue this morning (Friday, 12 June).
Goalkeeper Brilliant Khuzwayo is a doubtful starter as he is still recovering from a bout of flu – he sat out the final training session.  Bafana Bafana head coach Shakes Mashaba has been telling the players they need to start on a good note so as to emulate the 2015 AFCON qualifiers where they qualified for Equatorial Guinea with one match to spare.  Mashaba says:  ‘In the 2015 AFCON qualifiers everybody was willing to go because of the opposition (South Africa was drawn against Nigeria, Sudan and Congo), but now everyone thinks of Gambia and Mauritania and ask who are those?  Those people (Gambia) have about ten overseas-based players in their squad.  They are playing away they might come here, park the bus and be happy with a point, so it’s a big task for us to dismantle that defence.’
In the last qualifiers, two teams qualified from each group for the tournament but this time around it is different.  Mashaba says:  ‘This is going to be very tricky and perhaps more difficult.  It is important that we win all our home games and ensure we even do well on the road.  Crucially we need to score goals because in the end goal difference might see us through.  If we find Gambia open at the back we need to score as much as possible – at the end of the qualifiers you might have two nations deadlocked on points and the goal difference could come in handy.’  The Bafana Bafana mentor will face Gambia without the services of striker Tokelo Rantie who has asked to be withdrawn from the squad due wedding to celebrations – this leaves strikers Thamsanqa Gabuza (who replaces Rantie), Vuyisile Wana, Bonginkosi Ntuli, Gift Motupa and Sphelele Ntshangase as options upfront.
Mashaba says:  ‘We want to take the game to Gambia on Saturday and see their reaction, but if we going to run like headless chickens we will be punished.  If a team scores a goal when playing away, it becomes a double task to even matters.  If you look at our midfielders they are very pacy and quick on the ball which will make our lives easy because we will be having players who will add numbers in attack and also when we defend.  We can only hope that the strikers that we play there, because all of them are new in the team, will come to the party.’  Gambia landed in South African on Wednesday (10 June) after playing to a 1-1 draw against Uganda.
This is Gambia’s first match in South Africa and against Bafana Bafana.  The Scorpions, as the Gambia national football team is known, have just recently returned to the international arena.  They played the qualifiers for the 2013 tournament in South Africa but lost to Algeria.
In the preliminary rounds of the 2015 qualifiers, they were drawn against the Seychelles but Gambia was kicked before the match was played due to age cheating in their Under-20 side at the African Youth Championship.  Tickets for the match are on sale for R80 and are still available at Shoprite, Checkers and Shoprite Checkers stores as well as Computicket outlets countrywide.
Photo credit: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix