South Africa forward George Lebese says they have to win Friday’s game as they carry the hopes and aspirations of millions of South Africans. Lebese and his Bafana Bafana compatriots held their first training session in the scorching heat of Benguela on Wednesday morning (11 October), having arrived in the coastal city on Tuesday night. The South Africans will face Angola in Round 2 of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia qualifiers.
The clash takes place on Friday, 13 November at Estadio Nacional de Ombaka. Kickoff is at 16:30 South African time (15:30 local time in Benguela). Lebese says: ‘We are ready, we are focused and we are looking forward to the game. We know what is expected of us and we are also aware that the country is behind us because they know we can do the job. We just have to go out there and put in our best performance. It’s a do or die and we know are carrying hopes of millions of South Africans hence I said we know what is expected from us. The only promise I can make to South Africans is that we will give it a go and the rest will take care of themselves.’
Palancas Negras and Bafana Bafana meet in the first leg in Benguela, with the second scheduled for Durban on Tuesday, 17 November at the Moses Mabhida Stadium. Lebese says: ‘We are looking to win both games, a draw will be good in the first leg but we want to go for a win in both legs. We know Angola’s style of play and we were able to see glimpses of what to expect during the CHAN games. We are preparing very well and the morale is good in the team.’ His sentiments were echoed by Netherlands-based Kamohelo Mokotjo, who says: ‘It’s a very important match for Bafana Bafana because it a World Cup qualifier – and that for footballers is a very big deal as we get to play in the World Cup if we do qualify so it is very important and we have to do it together. Getting the result will be very key and if we get the lead in this game we need to frustrate them by keeping the ball. But most importantly it is about the result so we can make it easier for ourselves when we get back home. The coach knows what he wants from the players and we also know what to do so it is now time to show it, and I think we are ready.’
The midfielder was part of the squad that travelleved to the Americas where they defeated Costa Rica 1-0 and drew 1-1 with Honduras. He says: ‘We want to carry on with the momentum from the Americas, but this is a different game, different continent, conditions are different, its very hot here, but we have to deal with the situation just for a few days but for a good cause as we need the results. I think the boys are refreshed from the club and that’s good for the national team.’ Bafana Bafana are travelling without the injured Itumeleng Khune who suffered a knee injury that prevented him from playing in the past weekend’s Soweto derby against Orlando Pirates.
The Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper reported for national team duty and was assessed by the medical team before being released from the squad. His teammate Brilliant Khuzwayo was called up as a replacement but pulled out due to family commitments. Wayne Sandilands of Mamelodi Sundowns has come in the place of Khune to join the two other goalkepeers in the squad – Jackson Mabokgwane and Ronwen Williams.
Coach Shakes Mashaba says: ‘There is no need to panic with Khune not being available. We have a good group of goalkeepers to see us through these two games.’ Mabokgwane and Lehlohonolo Nonyane are both suffering from right knee knocks, Erick Mathoho has a calf strain while George Lebese has a hamstring strain. Team doctor Thulani Ngwenya says: ‘They are not serious injuries that is why we have kept them in camp. They are undergoing treatment and should be ready on match day.’
Photo credit: AFP PHOTO / CARL DE SOUZA