15 October 2013
Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund says his focus with the national football team is now firmly on the African Nations Championship (Chan), which South Africa will host from 11 January to 1 February 2014.
Igesund was speaking on Monday after arriving back in the country from Morocco, where Bafana Bafana shared a 1-1 draw with the Atlas Lions in a friendly international to open the new Agadir City Stadium.
The coach fielded a young team for the game and gave three players their debuts. He also used the outing to cast an eye over the talent available for the African Nations Championship, which is contested by national teams fielding only players who play their football in their home countries.
“I am happy with the exercise we took to go to Morocco and introduce these youngsters against some of the best players in international football,” Igesund told the media.
“I was able to see how they react in front of a big crowd like the one we had in Agadir.
“We will be introducing more youngsters in the next few matches because we need a bigger pool of players to get the team ready for the 2015 Afcon (Africa Cup of Nations) qualifiers and tournament, as well as the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia.”
Focusing on the African Nations Championship, Igesund added: “It is important that we start preparing for that event. Everything we do now going forward will solely be for the tournament. We are working on finalising two matches as a start next month, and we might end up playing four friendly matches before the African Nations Championship.
“But the first thing I have to do is find out about the availability of players for the tournament. We need to get that sorted soon so that I can start working on selecting the players to feature in the Nations Championship.
“Talks are ongoing between the South African Football Association (Safa) and the Premier Soccer League (PSL). In the next few days we might have an idea of which direction to take.”
‘A tough group’
South Africa face a difficult challenge, Igesund said. “We are in a tough group, but the plan is go and win it. We are playing Nigeria, Mozambique and Mali. The only way we can do well is to have the best players available, but it is a bit early to talk about that seeing that the tournament does not fall on a Fifa calendar date.”
The African Nations Championship has been played twice previously, with the Democratic Republic of Congo winning the first tournament, hosted by the Ivory Coast in 2009, by beating Ghana 2-0 in the final. Zambia finished third after a 2-1 defeat of Senegal.
African Nations Championship 2011
In 2011, in Sudan, Tunisia crushed Angola 3-0 to capture the title. Sudan finished third after edging Algeria 1-0.
South Africa failed to qualify for the first African Nations Championship finals after losing to Zimbabwe 3-0 on aggregate in the qualifiers.
Bafana Bafana made it to the finals in 2011 after seeing off both Botswana and Zambia on 2-1 aggregates in the qualifiers. They then finished top of Group B after wins of 2-1 over Ghana, 2-0 over Niger and 2-1 over Zimbabwe.
South Africa’s tournament was ended by Algeria in the quarterfinals, with the North Africans scoring a 2-0 victory.
SAinfo reporter and South African Football Association