Still a lot of pride to play for, says Bafana skipper
South Africa in good spirits ahead of play-off
NO matter what tournament organisers say, the third-place play-off match remains one of the most meaningless matches in sport.
It’s a basically a match for losers who stumbled at the penultimate hurdle. They are not allowed to go home and sulk about not making the final, but are punished to play one more match which basically has nothing at stake.
However, Bafana Bafana seem to look forward to their Cosafa Cup third-place play-off match against Lesotho this afternoon at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium (kick-off 1pm). The final between Zambia and Zimbabwe will be played afterwards.
There was a good vibe and lots of smiles during the team’s last training session of the tournament yesterday. It looks like the team have put their semi-final loss against hosts Zambia behind them, even though many of the staff and the players did mention that wounds are still raw from that penalty shoot-out defeat.
One man that wasn’t smiling yesterday was midfielder Ruzaigh Gamildien, who sat out the training session with a broken wrist. He will also not be available for selection today.
Gamildien fell awkwardly in the game against the Copper Bullets and when he woke up the next morning his wrist was swollen, and scans revealed that it needs to be put in a cast.
Meanwhile, captain and goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands assured the media yesterday that his young charges aren’t home sick yet, and that they will be coming out swinging to knock Lesotho into fourth place this afternoon.
“It’s obviously a difficult game to play, but in any game you play for your country, you need to be motivated, whether it is in a friendly or whatever the case may be,” said Sandilands
“There is a lot of pride at stake and a lot of responsibility that the players carry. We just have to go out there and do what we have done in the previous two games and give a good account of ourselves.
“We are not just representing ourselves, we have to remember that and focus on that, and then we will have that same commitment that we have shown in the previous games.”
The commitment has been rather impressive, although Bafana’s Zambian military escorts, carrying AK47 assault rifles, did show their dedication to the job yesterday when they almost ran a couple of cars off the highway on the journey back to the hotel.
The players shared a joke with the army, but their passion in this tournament has been no laughing matter.
“The young guns have given a good account of themselves. I’m really proud of the way they have conducted themselves. Other teams have had way more times to be together and prepare,” Sandilands said.
“In the short time these guys have been together, the type of unity we have shown on the field has been immense. We couldn’t have asked more from the guys in terms of their commitment and passion.
“That’s what got us this far. We wanted to make the final, but I think the guys can still be really proud of themselves.”
The Bafana defensive line has also been really impressive at this tournament, especially in the way they managed to keep Zambia goalless in the first half of their semi-final when their midfielders struggled to keep the ball.
Right back Thulani Hlatshwayo and centre back Bhule Mkhwanazi have been immense, both showing a lot of maturity during their first taste of international football.
Sandilands, himself, has also been a rock between the sticks, making some top saves against Zambia and only conceding one goal in the tournament so far – against Namibia in the quarter-finals.
“To see how these guys have taken the responsibility, having embraced the challenge, is a big highlight. The attitude of the guys has been brilliant,” Sandilands said.
“The back four have been really solid. A lot of the guys are young and inexperienced at this level, but you wouldn’t say that because they have each held their own.
“It will be hard to leave out some of the guys in future,” Sandilands added. BARCELONA coach Tito Vilanova is to step down due to ill- health, Spanish media reported yesterday, without identifying the source of their information.
Vilanova, 44, has been battling throat cancer for the past couple of years and spent two months having treatment in New York last season.
Barça vice president Javier Faus said he was unable to confirm the reports when contacted by telephone.
A Barça spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment. Club president Sandro Rosell and sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta were due to hold a news conference later last night.
Sport reported that Joan Francesc Ferrer, known as “Rubi”, may be in line to take over. Ferrer led Girona to the second division playoffs last season and was appointed Vilanova’s assistant for the coming campaign to help with technical analysis of Barça’s rivals.
Vilanova, pictured, succeeded his close friend Pep Guardiola at the end of the 2011- 12 season after Guardiola – now coach of Bayern Munich – decided to take a year out from football.
The pair, who were at Barça’s academy together and coached the B side before stepping up to the first team in 2008, led the club on a spectacular four-year run including two Champions League crowns and three La Liga titles.
Last season, Vilanova helped Barça to a fourth La Liga success in five years as they equalled Real Madrid’s record points haul from the previous term. – Sapa
CAPTAIN COURAGEOUS: Bafana Bafana skipper and goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands says he’s proud of his young team, who showed commitment and passion throughout the tournament.