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'Only a matter of time before Downs conquer CAF again'

Depth is impressive, says Mnguni

Nkareng Matshe Sports editor
Former Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder Bennett Mnguni in action.
Former Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder Bennett Mnguni in action.
Image: Tertius Pickard/Gallo Images

Mamelodi Sundowns could lift their second trophy this week, and third of the season, should they overcome Marumo Gallants in tomorrow’s Nedbank Cup final but not even a clean sweep of domestic trophies would hide that they fell short when it mattered most.

As they were officially crowned Premiership champions for a fifth time in succession on Monday, to add to the MTN8 crown they clinched in October, an air of dejection still hung around the Brazilians after another disappointing CAF Champions League campaign that again ended at the quarterfinal stage.

A shock defeat to unfancied Petro Atletico of Angola meant Sundowns will have to try again next season to add to the continental title they clinched in 2016 under Pitso Mosimane, who has since led Al-Ahly to their third successive Champions League final, taking place on Monday against Morocco’s Wydad.

While many in the Sundowns ranks were left disappointed, especially as they had looked like a well-oiled machine in conquering the group stage – including two unforgettable victories over Ahly – former midfielder Bennett Mnguni believes the Brazilians acquitted themselves well despite failing to go all the way.

“You can’t really fault the team. The loss to Petro was a matter of luck, and these things can happen in football,” said Mnguni, who won a league title with the team that also reached the 2001 Champions League final, which they lost to Ahly.

“Over the two legs Petro had a few chances and took them, whereas we missed a lot, including a penalty [in the second leg]. We may have underestimated them a little. But it’s only a matter of time before we win the Champions League again.”

Mnguni commended his former club for annexing the championship yet again and believes it will take some time before they are dislodged from the top spot.

“We play well. We dominate games. The structure is right because even when one player is missing we still play the same way. That shows we have a lot of depth, something that many teams lack,” he said.

The man who won a league title with Lokomotiv in Russia and played in the Uefa Champions League, picked Royal AM as potential challengers to Sundowns’ crown in the new season.

“They [Royal] are very competitive. And it has nothing to do with money. They have a larger squad. You need that to challenge [for the title].”

Mnguni believes Soweto giants Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs will remain off the pace due to lack of certainty in their selection.

“Pirates looked to be on course to challenge Sundowns but they don’t have a settled line-up. One moment [Gabadinho] Mhango is there, the next it’s someone else. At Chiefs, fans seem to make a lot of noise about players who must leave. They say Bernard Parker is old, but you need such players to play a role when you’re rebuilding. Remember when they allowed Reneilwe Letsholonyane to leave for SuperSport United soon after winning the league [in 2015]? Such decisions can backfire badly. You don’t get rid of players merely because they are over 30.”

Mnguni, who runs a youth academy from his own pocket in Cullinan, Tshwane, is convinced the current Downs side is way better than his teammates who reached the 2001 continental final. “In our team you had the same faces all the time. Themba Mnguni was playing all the games. This one, you can rest five players and still play at the same level. The depth is incredible. They will dominate for many years.”

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