Underestimate us at your peril, Phala warns Afcon opponents

8 December 2015

Bafana Bafana have arrived in Gabon to continue their preparations ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), Africa’s most prestigious sporting event, which takes place in Equatorial Guinea from 17 January 17 to 8 February.

The South Africans’ preparations for the CAF Orange Africa Cup of Nations Equatorial Guinea 2015 tournament, include a warm-up match against Cameroon on Saturday, 10 January, in Libreville.

There is also another warm-up against hosts Gabon on the cards, the South African Football Association (Safa) said in a statement on Wednesday.

‘Winning mentality’

At a press conference ahead of the team’s departure, Safa president Danny Jordaan praised coach Shakes Mashaba for instilling a winning mentality in Bafana Bafana, KickOff magazine reported.

“Previously we used to fight for draws in away matches. Shakes has changed that thinking,” Jordaan said.

He said 2015 was lining up to be a very challenging year. “We currently have three teams in camp. I can’t remember the last time this happened in South Africa.

“Equatorial Guinea is not the end of the road, it is the beginning of the road. We are in a group where only the best are.”

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula urged the team to make the country proud.

“The players have come of age. This is a special moment for South Africa. We’re going to Afcon as competitors.

“You have restored the pride and glory of the nation. If you win Afcon, it will be a glorious moment.

“Go there and make South Africa proud. Our flag and national anthem will be restored among those nations.”

‘Favourites’

In an interview with Safa on Wednesday, Bafana Bafana winger Thuso Phala said anyone underestimating South Africa would be doing so “at their own peril”.

Phala has returned to the national team, having played his last match in March last year against New Zealand in Auckland. Phala, who has been capped 14 times, scored his first international goal last Sunday, 4 January, helping Bafana Bafana to defeat Zambia.

“I don’t think we can be seen as underdogs,” Phala said. “Going to the tournament most countries will be more prepared for us because perhaps they have been watching our tapes during the qualifiers … but if the other countries want to see us as underdogs, it will be to their disadvantage.

“With the players we have, we booked our place in Equatorial Guinea with a game remaining,” the winger said. “I see us as one of the favourites in our group.”

Phala said he believed the most difficult part of the competition was to qualify for the knockout stages. “But once you are through there, it’s anybody’s game.”

He said this year the team’s focus will be on qualifying for the next round – “and then we could go all the way”.

FULL BAFANA SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Brilliant Khuzwayo, Darren Keet, Jackson Mabokgwane

Defenders: Siyabonga Nhlapo, Patrick Phungwayo, Anele Ngcongca, Thulani Hlatshwayo, Mulomowandau Mathoho, Rivaldo Coetzee, Thabo Matlaba

Midfielders: Themba Zwane, Andile Jali, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Bongani Zungu, Thamsanqa Sangweni, Dean Furman, Thuso Phala, Mandla Masango, Oupa Manyisa

Strikers: Bernard Parker, Tokelo Rantie, Bongani Ndulula, Sibusiso Vilakazi

GROUP C FIXTURES

  • January 19 – South Africa v Algeria – Estadio de Mongomo: 9pm
  • January 23 – Senegal v South Africa – Estadio de Mongomo: 9pm
  • January 27 – Ghana v South Africa – Estadio de Mongomo: 8pm

AFCON 2015 FIXTURES

All times CAT (SA, GMT+2)

Saturday 17 January 2015

  • Equatorial Guinea v Congo – Estadio de Bata: 6pm
  • Burkina Faso v Gabon – Estadio de Bata: 9pm

Sunday 18 January 2015

  • Zambia v Congo DR – Nuevo Estadio de Ebebiyin: 6pm
  • Tunisia v Cape Verde Islands – Nuevo Estadio de Ebebiyin: 9pm

Monday 19 January 2015

  • Ghana v Senegal – Estadio de Mongomo: 6pm
  • Algeria v South Africa – Estadio de Mongomo: 9pm

Tuesday 20 January 2015

  • Cote d’Ivoire v Guinea – Nuevo Estadio de Malabo: 6pm
  • Mali v Cameroon – Nuevo Estadio de Malabo: 9pm

Wednesday 21 January 2015

  • Equatorial Guinea v Burkina Faso – Estadio de Bata: 6pm

Thursday 22 January 2015

  • Zambia v Tunisia – Nuevo Estadio de Ebebiyin: 6pm
  • Cape Verde Islands v Congo DR – Nuevo Estadio de Ebebiyin: 9pm

Friday 23 January 2015

  • Ghana v Algeria – Estadio de Mongomo: 6pm
  • South Africa v Senegal – Estadio de Mongomo: 9pm

Saturday 24 January 2015

  • Cote d’Ivoire v Mali – Nuevo Estadio de Malabo: 6pm

Sunday 25 January 2015

  • Gabon v Equatorial Guinea – Estadio de Bata: 8pm
  • Congo v Burkina Faso – Nuevo Estadio de Ebebiyin: 8pm

Monday 26 January 2015

  • Cape Verde Islands v Zambia – Nuevo Estadio de Ebebiyin: 8pm
  • Congo DR v Tunisia – Estadio de Bata: 8pm

Tuesday 27 January 2015

  • South Africa v Ghana – Estadio de Mongomo: 8pm
  • Senegal v Algeria – Nuevo Estadio de Malabo: 8pm

Wednesday 28 January 2015

  • Guinea v Mali – Estadio de Mongomo: 8pm
  • Cameroon v Cote d’Ivoire – Nuevo Estadio de Malabo: 8pm

Saturday 31 January 2015

  • Group A Winner v Group B Second Place – Estadio de Bata: 6pm
  • Group B Winner v Group A Second Place – Nuevo Estadio de Ebebiyin: 9pm

Sunday 1 February 2015

  • Group C Winner v Group D Second Place – Estadio de Mongomo: 6pm
  • Group D Winner v Group C Second Place – Nuevo Estadio de Malabo: 9pm

Wednesday 4 February 2015

  • Quarterfinal 1 Winner v Quarterfinal 4 Winner – Estadio de Bata: 9pm

Thursday 05 February 2015

  • Quarterfinal 2 Winner v Quarterfinal 3 Winner – Nuevo Estadio de Malabo: 9pm

Saturday 07 February 2015

  • Semifinal 1 Loser v Semifinal 2 Loser – Nuevo Estadio de Malabo: 8pm

Sunday 08 February 2015

  • Semifinal 1 Winner v Semifinal 2 Winner – Estadio de Bata: 9pm

SAinfo reporter