England-based midfielder Dean Furman will lead Bafana Bafana in the first match of the CAF Orange Africa Cup of Nations Equatorial Guinea 2015 tournament. South Africa faces Algeria at Stade de Mongomo today (Monday, 19 January). Kick-off is at 21:00 South African time.
Playing in his 27th match, this will be the fourth time he captains his country having made his debut back in September 2012 against Brazil in Sao Paolo. SAFA Media spoke to him ahead of the all-important clash against Algeria.
Q: Dean the time has come, we are just waiting for kick-off…
A: This is the moment we have been building up to for the last six months when we discussed in the first camp before qualification that this is where we want to be. We are delighted to be here and excited, we can’t wait for the kick-off. Preparations have gone really well and we have worked hard over the last couple of weeks. We have had three positive games for us, albeit with different challenges, we are now excited it’s just the waiting around that is probably the worst while we wait for kick-off, but we are certainly excited and hopefully we will continue with our good form.
Q: And how much have those warm-up matches helped the team?
A: I think they all posed different threats, I didn’t see the Zambia game as I was travelling to camp but the other two have been good. We worked on different things at training which we were able to implement in the games and we can take a lot of confidence from our form in those two games.
Q: For you personally, did playing Mali and Cameroon give you a taste of what is to come in the tournament?
A: Of course, these are two very strong teams in the tournament who are expected to go all the way. For us to play against top teams in our preparation was the perfect way to get us into the tournament and we can take a lot of belief in the way we performed and the results we got from those two games.
Q: Scoring three against Mali who boast world stars must have been great…
A: It was actually a difficult game, the score-line makes it sound easy but Mali is a very good team and we know it is that kind of level we will come up against in the tournament. The result gives us a lot of belief that we can go out there, first to compete against these teams, and also score goals against such opposition. The second half performance was a lot promising and it is something that we look to do in this tournament.
Q: Looking at the qualifiers and the recent matches, how much confidence is there in team to do well?
A: There is now a lot of belief since we went to Sudan and got a result. The Nigeria match away was a terrific one where we should have won and then there were home games. All these have increased the belief in this group which is very evident. We are putting our bodies on the line for our fellow players and for our country hopefully it is something that will stand us well in this tournament.
Q: Your second AFCON tournament, how different is it from the first one?
A: It is a very different group of players from the first one which also had talented players, but we have to look forward. We have a group that is equally determined to do well and hopefully we can go further than the last AFCON.
Q: How do you caution those players wanting to sell themselves in this tournament while not playing as a team?
A: The great thing about this team which has been evident over the last six months or so is that no one is out there for themselves but in it for the team. If you remember the Nigeria game we were down to ten men but we put our bodies on the line and that shows that no one is here as an individual, we are here for each other and our country and if someone gets recognition we will congratulate them and will be delighted for them but that will only be if we focus solely on the team.
Q: What does this tournament mean to you?
A: It is huge, to represent your country, even in a friendly is one of the greatest honours, more so at such top tournament which is where Bafana Bafana need to be regularly. We are delighted to be here, we are happy we have qualified; we earned the right to be here. We need to prove to the continent and to the watching world that Bafana Bafana is a top footballing nation and that is left to us to go out there and do it.
Q: Leading the team tonight…
A: Leading your country is one of the top honours you can have and the three games I have worn the armband has been really special and a proud moment for me and my family. But leadership doesn’t come only with the armband; we are all leaders in our own way. What is important is to stand up and be counted because we are going to come up against some really good opposition
Q: Message to the millions of South Africans back home….
A: First of all we thank them for their support and even though we are not seeing them out here (in Equatorial Guinea) but certainly on social media their supporters is unbelievable and the players really appreciate that, hopefully we can give them a winning team.