JOHANNESBURG- BAFANA Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba boldly stated that his team could claim the Africa Cup of Nations title in Equatorial Guinea next month.
“We are coming back after the 10th [February] after the final is played. We have packed our bags expecting for a long stay there,” Mashaba said in Johannesburg before the team’s departure for Gabon on Wednesday.
“In 1996 we set the standard that we are championship material. With this team we are trying to revive that spirit and show that we are one of the best.”
Mashaba has set his sights on upsetting the number-one ranked nation on the continent Algeria, in their opening clash of the tournament on January 19.
“All the teams are equal. When they say the group of death it gives us motivation it will be good to beat the number-one team on the continent.
“I have told the players not to fear anybody because we have no reason to feel inferior. The boys are ready. The players know why they are here and they know what it means to wear the Bafana jersey.”
Bafana would put their unbeaten streak under Mashaba on the line at the Afcon tournament starting January 17 in Equatorial Guinea.
Ghana and Senegal are the other two teams in group C which is considered one of the toughest in the tournament.
“In the next two matches will know what to expect and what we need to do,” Mashaba said.
“The matches will allow us to get familiar with the conditions, with the heat and with the atmosphere of the fans.”
South Africa start the tournament without Eric Mathoho and Reneilwe Letsholonyane who are not eligible for the critical opening game against Algeria.
Both players received suspensions as a result of the yellow cards they received in the final 2-2 qualifying game against Nigeria.
It was Mathoho’s second yellow card in the qualifying stages while Letsholonyane was yellow-carded twice in the Nigeria match and red-carded in the process.
It would leave Mashaba with a difficult decision for the warm-up game against Cameroon, in Libreville, on Saturday.
The Bafana coach will have to decide whether to include the lanky,
tough-tackling Mathoho and the tricky Letsholonyane against the Indomitable Lions or field a potential shadow line-up in preparation for the Algeria game.
The poser did not seem to worry Mashaba on the squad’s departure, and the players shared his optimism.
“We have a great chance of winning this tournament,” said youthful
Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Brilliant Khuzwayo.
His teammate Bernard Parker said the team were starting to believe in themselves more and more.
“The coach has told us we are champion material, and we have come to believe him.”
SuperSport United’s Thuso Phala said: “We are definitely not going to Equatorial Guinea as underdogs after remaining unbeaten in the qualifying rounds.” – Sapa