JOHNNESBURG: South Africa, despite the matchfixing scandal which has ripped through its football association, is fit and ready to host the imminent 2013 finals of the African Nations Cup.
Mvuzo Mbebe, ceo of the Local Organizing Committee, made that assertion at a press conference confirming the Bafana Bafana squad.
“There are 21 days for the biggest soccer event in Africa to start,” Mbebe said. “We have put in place plans that will ensure that every team is provided with the necessary environment and conditions conducive to compete equally.”
He encouraged South Africans to fill the stadia and support the South African national team who have struggled ever since becoming the first host team ever to fail to progress the first group stage of a World Cup finals in 2010.
The Department of Home Affairs has confirmed it will expand staffing levels at the entry points to assist the high volume of visitors expected during the tournament.
The finals should have been hosted by Libya but these were switched to South Africa by the African confederation because of the difficulties created by the recent civil war.
National coach Gordon Igesund described his squad as “a dream team.”
He added: ““This is an outstanding team, very well balanced and the team gives me options at any moment in a game to change to a plan B or plan C. The players that I have selected have shown me that they are hungry to play and also I must add, even the players that I have left out, it has been the most difficult part.”
Igesund sprung few surprises with his squad, including the majority of players he has picked throughout his tenure as Bafana coach, opting for a youthful yet experienced make-up to his outfit.
“There are so many players that are just fantastic players, but unfortunately I had to leave some players out,” Igesund said. “We had sleepless nights. The line between being in the team and being out of the team was so small, there were so many magnificent players.
“It is a very experienced team, I’ve gone for youth, I’ve got 10 players in the squad that are 25 years and younger and I’ve also got some players that have many caps for South Africa.”
Igesund added that he had selected his side based on their opponents in the group stage of the tournament, which included Angola, Morocco and Cape Verde in group A.
“When you select a team, you need to know what you are selecting the team for,” he explained.
“I am selecting this team because of the make-up of the teams we have to play in the first round. Based on what those teams are capable of doing, where we are going to counter them, where I think that we can be strong and I picked a team not only based on the opposition, but one that is very well balanced.”
Igesund named four goalkeepers, led by first choice Kaizer Chiefs shot-stopper Itumeleng Khune, Wayne Sandilands and Orlando Pirates’ Senzo Meyiwa.
In defence, Bloemfontein Celtic’s Thabo Nthethe earned a call-up at the expense of Bevan Fransman, while Thabo Matlaba also cracked the nod.
Teko Modise missed out on a call-up, but highly-rated Ajax Amsterdam playmaker Thulani Serero made the final 23, along with the likes of Amakhosi regulars Siphiwe Tshabalala and Reneilwe Letsholonyane.
Serero is one of seven foreign-based players in the squad, including defenders Bongani Khumalo (PAOK, Greece), Anele Ngcongca (Racing Genk, Belgium), midfielders Dean Furman (Oldham Athletic, England), Kagisho Dikgacoi (Crystal Palace, England) and May Mahlangu (Helsingborg, Sweden), and striker Tokelo Rantie (Malmo FF, Sweden).
Igesund opted to leave out Mamelodi Sundowns’ Teko Modise, but included Katlego Mphela, who has successfully recovered from injury.
Other notable omissions include Andile Jali, Ricardo Nunes, Sifiso Myeni and Daine Klate.
“Our preparations are really going to start now. Up until now we have mixed and shuffled the team around,” Igesund said.
“We made six substitutions in each [friendly] game, the players never really gelled together, but I from January 2, I’ll have all 23 players.
“I believe I have selected the cream of the crop in South African football at this point in time.”
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