Bafana to take on Mali in final Afcon preps

JOHANNESBURG - BAFANA Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba has a small  headache with his team selection as injuries are playing a part when Bafana Bafana take on Mali on Wednesday at the Monedan Stadium in the final preparation match ahead of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea.

The kick-off is at 3pm local time in Gabon (4pm SA time).

“The injuries are a little scary. We are at a time when we shouldn’t be getting such, even if it is just a slight knock. It disturbs and distracts the plan as it would mean some players would have to sit out at training.
“We sat down with the medical team who guided us as to what to expect as we continue — in terms of how much work we need to give the players ahead of the tournament and we have come up with a new programme. Resting is also an important part of preparation,” he said.
So some changes are expected for the match against Mali.
“I would love to play most of the players. But we will make changes like we did in the match against Cameroon.
“I know people will expect players like Yeye (Reneilwe Letsholonyane) and (Eric) Mathoho to feature but they are suspended for the first match.
“This does not mean we are sidelining them. They are training like everyone else in the team but we are now looking for combinations to play in the first match against Algeria in Mongomo,” said Mashaba.
Bafana Bafana played to a 1-1 draw against Cameroon in an international friendly match on Saturday at the Stade de L’amitie in Libreville, Gabon. The South Africans move to Equatorial Guinea on Friday, January 16.
Mashaba is looking at combinations in his final preparation match.
“If you think back to the Cameroon match we pulled out Andile (Jali) to see how will the other players fit in, we changed goalkeepers to have a good look at what we have.
“But for now we have all the players on the same level until we announce the starting line-up against Algeria,” said Mashaba.
Mashaba has still a few worries about the team’s performance before the tournament.
“Against Cameroon we gave a silly set piece in front of goals away and we were punished. Cameroon were dominating and dictating terms. We only started playing the last 10 or 12 minutes and were all over them, even came close to scoring.
“In the second half things went well after our discussion in the dressing room. The result of the Cameroon match was good as it gave the team confidence and kept the momentum going,” said Mashaba.
Mashaba said the focus is now fully on Mali.
“I am hoping that Mali comes out as strong as Cameroon. We hope they do not come here and treat it as a training match. I know that when two nations meet it has never been friendly. There is a lot at stake — the question of pride is number one,” he said.
He said the training in Gabon helped the team achieve everything in terms of acclimatisation and the weather. It is very close to Equatorial Guinea with not much travel and difference between the two countries.
Mashaba is happy to see the return of Ayanda Gcaba.
“I am grateful that he is with the team. Maybe he will be fatigued from travelling, but we will throw him in against Mali and see how he performs in terms of fitness and how he fits in the team,” said Mashaba. - Sapa