'We won't come out guns blazing'
BAFANA Bafana will take a cautiously positive approach to the start of the opening game of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations against Cape Verde at the National Stadium tomorrow.
Kickoff is at 6pm.
Cape Verde are the supposed minnows of Group A but knocked Cameroon out of the qualifiers with home and away wins, and with a ranking of 69th in the world they are almost 18 places above South Africa.
With Morocco (January 23) and Angola (January 27) still to come in the group, Bafana will be desperate for a win in their opener to raise the spirits of their supporters and ease the pressure on themselves as hosts.
But coach Gordon Igesund said yesterday, ahead of his side's training session at Orlando Stadium, that Bafana would not come out all guns blazing against the national team of the island archipelago off west Africa.
"It's always tricky - how do you start off a game?" the coach said. "We don't necessarily want to come out all guns (blazing) - you need to respect the opposition.
"The gap is closing between the so-called giants of football and the minnows. We'll give them the respect they deserve, but obviously we'd also like to try and score a goal nice and early - start the game offensively - but by the same token keep it nice and tight. This team is a difficult team in the sense that they're very tough runners. They run and they run and they close down, although they have played on very small pitches in their last two games and the park (at National Stadium) is nice and big and we can stretch them."
Igesund said he had done his preparation on Cape Verde, including watching the tapes of their games this month against Nigeria (a 0-0 draw) and Tunisia in June (a 2-1 defeat). The coach has identified key men such as RKC Waalwijk defender Guy Ramos and dangerous Lille striker Ryan Mendes.
"I've got a lot of information on Cape Verde - each of my players will get a DVD of the player he's playing against. They'll be very familiar with the players individually so when I'm doing my team talk they'll be able to refer to the player immediately."
Igesund said he had to improvise as he crammed in Bafana's final preparations this week.
"It's been tough all along and it's no good saying have we got enough time, or whatever. That's how it is and that's what we've got to cope with. We've got to improvise if there are issues. As I said before, we'll be ready. And I've got to work the players a little bit extra, but then you rest them after training - more water, more swimming and more ice for recovery."
The opening match was sold out by yesterday. Asked if he was surprised, Igesund replied: "Not really. There's a lot of passionate supporters in South Africa. We had full houses in the World Cup, and the Afcon in 1996. In South Africa everybody waits until the last minute to by tickets.
l Morocco and Angola face off in the second Group A match, at 9pm.