South Africa head coach Pitso Mosimane has said that it is of paramount importance for South Africa to claim maximum points when they travel to Sierra Leone for a 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier next week.
Speaking at a press conference in Johannesburg, where he named his squad, Mosimane warned that the Leone Stars will be tricky opponents at home. Indeed, the Bafana Bafana patriarch believes that, bar their pending fixture against Egypt in Cairo, this upcoming outing in Freetown will be his team’s toughest qualifying test.
“It's going to be a tough match for us," he said. "But we are confident that we have a good team. We are currently on top of our group and we have an opportunity to affirm our position with a win in Freetown. We can play that game and then travel home still on top of our group, we have fate in our own hands. We don’t need favours."
The only surprise on Mosimane’s 22-man squad was the inclusion of Mamelodi Sundowns forward Surprise Moriri, who has been kept on the national team fringes since the FIFA World Cup™. The coach has kept the core of the squad that played both Ghana in a friendly international and Nigeria in a qualifier earlier in September.
“I believe in continuity,” the Bafana Bafana coach explained. "We played against Niger and we did very well with this team. If it’s not broken, why fix it? We will be relying a lot on experienced players like Steven Pienaar and McBeth Sibaya who played last night against Barcelona (for Rubin Kazan). We cannot go to Sierra Leone and experiment. We need a team that understands each other.
The Leone Stars are still riding on a wave of optimism following some surprise results including a draw against African champions Egypt in their opening Group G fixture. Mosimane is aware that this makes the hosts doubly dangerous.
He said: “We know that the spirits are very high in Freetown, we know that the confidence levels are very high there, so we have to approach this game cautiously. I saw the match against Egypt, they have very good and experienced players in their team. We might not play our regular style of football because we have certain objectives to achieve during this game. Last time we went there, we lost."
Mosimane, who took over from former coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, has - like his predecessor - come in for some scathing criticism in South Africa for his loyalty towards out-of-form midfilder Teko Modise. Despite falling out of favour at club level, Modise has still retained his place in Mosimane's squad.
“Teko is an experienced player," said the coach. "He has played at the Africa Cup of Nations, Confederations Cup and the World Cup. Yes, he is going through a rough patch at the moment. What Teko needs now is support, he needs people who will help him regain his form and confidence. No-one can be a bad player overnight. I will keep on selecting Teko because I believe he is a good player.”
South Africa squad
Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs), Moeneeb Josephs (Orlando Pirates), Darren Keet (Bidvest Wits)
Defenders: Siboniso Gaxa (Lierse SK, Belgium), Innocent Mdledle (Mamelodi Sundowns), Tsepo Masilela (Maccabi Haifa, Israel), Aaron Mokoena (Portsmouth, England), Bongani Khumalo, Morgan Gould (both SuperSport United), Anele Ngcongca (RC Genk, Belgium), Siyabonga Sangweni (Golden Arrows)
Midfielders: Siphiwe Tshabalala, Reneilwe Letsholonyane (both Kaizer Chiefs), Teko Modise, Andile Jali (both Orlando Pirates), Thanduyise Khuboni (Golden Arrows), Steven Pienaar (Everton, England) and MacBeth Sibaya (Rubin Kazan, Russia)
Forwards: Sthembiso Ngcobo (Kaizer Chiefs), Katlego Mphela, Surprise Moriri (both Mamelodi Sundowns), Bernard Parker (FC Twente, Holland)