Bafana out to keep Cosafa Cup pride

Fol­low­ing a bril­liant start in his se­cond stint with Bafana, Baxter will be hop­ing to win even more hearts

CityPress - - Sport - TI­MOTHY MOLOBI ti­mothy@city­press.co.za

Be­ing a re­gional tour­na­ment, the Cosafa Cup is not al­ways the most scin­til­lat­ing of com­pe­ti­tions.

The SA Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion has al­ready said it does not ex­pect much from the tour­na­ment and that it should be used to widen the pool of na­tional team play­ers.

But that counts for noth­ing with hardto-please South Africans, who ex­pect Bafana Bafana to win when­ever they take to the field and show their dom­i­nance in the re­gion.

As de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons, a lot is ex­pected from Bafana and they will be out to re­tain the ti­tle on home soil.

Stu­art Baxter’s an­nounce­ment of his squad for the tour­na­ment raised many eye­brows as he dropped ev­ery se­nior player from the squad, right­fully so, call­ing up what can only be called a “B team”, or fringe, play­ers to Rusten­burg. Many are not quite sure what to make of this.

But it is a bril­liant move from Baxter to opt to see how his other play­ers do on the re­gional stage.

Hav­ing de­cided to leave his ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers be­hind, Baxter hopes that those that he has se­lected rise to the oc­ca­sion and chal­lenge for a place in the World Cup qual­i­fier team next month.

The ball is in the play­ers’ court now as they need to grab the op­por­tu­nity and de­liver.

Bafana take on Tan­za­nia in the quar­ter­fi­nals this af­ter­noon with­out Cape Town City winger Aubrey Ngoma, who has sus­tained a knee in­jury.

One player who needs to prove his worth is for­mer Or­lando Pi­rates mid­fielder Lehl­o­gonolo Masalesa, who has been named the captain of the team.

With the midfield po­si­tion con­tested ter­ri­tory, the AE Larissa mid­fielder could add to Baxter’s headaches.

Baxter al­ready has to choose be­tween Hlom­pho Kekana, Dean Fur­man, Andile Jali, Kamo­h­elo Mokotjo, Bongani Zungu and Tiyani Mabunda, and a good show­ing from the Greece-based Masalesa will add to the coach’s se­lec­tion prob­lems.

He is not the only player look­ing to leave a last­ing im­pres­sion.

Two play­ers in the squad played in the 2015 Fifa Un­der-17 World Cup in Chile, and six fea­tured in the re­cent Fifa Un­der20 World Cup in Korea.

Fol­low­ing a bril­liant start in his se­cond stint with Bafana, Baxter will also be look­ing to win more hearts by be­ing vic­to­ri­ous in this tour­na­ment.

He beat Nige­ria in his first game in charge last month, but lost to Zam­bia a few days later.

Hav­ing al­ready played three games in this com­pe­ti­tion, Tan­za­nia will have mo­men­tum on their side go­ing into to­day’s match, un­like the Bafana squad, which has not played a sin­gle game. This could work against Baxter as he will only get to see his play­ers in a match sit­u­a­tion in the ac­tual con­test.

How­ever, Tan­za­nia’s record is not im­pres­sive as they have only won one of their three matches – two end­ing in draws. De­spite hav­ing fringe and in­ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers, Bafana should still be too much for the East Africans.

Kick-off at Royal Bafo­keng Sta­dium is at 5pm.

PHOTO: MUZI NTOMBELA / BACKPAGEPIX

DE­FEND­ING CHAMPS Bafana are de­ter­mined to re­tain the Cosafa Cup

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