BAFANA Bafana captain Dean Furman says while AFCON 2015 Group C is on paper the toughest draw, he is excited with the calibre of teams they will face at the CAF Orange Africa Cup of Nations 2015 in Equatorial Guinea.
South Africa was drawn alongside Ghana, Senegal and Algeria in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea on Wednesday night ( December 3). They will play their games in Mongomo.
“It is a great draw. It is without doubt very tough but also exciting at the same time. We are really looking forward to the tournament. We are thankful that we went through the qualifiers without a loss and that really has enhanced our character. We need to continue from where we left off in the qualifiers,” said the England-based Furman.
“We put in a lot of hard work in all those matches, now we have to double our efforts because it’s three good teams we will be taking on and they have different styles of play. But we are confident that we can do well. We will take some lessons from the qualifiers where we finished without defeat, and improve on them heading to the tournament. Good preparations will give us a head start to the tournament.”
His sentiments were echoed by Belgium-based defender, Anele Ngcongca, one of the senior members of Shakes Mashaba’s team.
“It is indeed the Group of Death, but then again on the field it is 11 versus 11 and if we go there with a positive mentality, we will get positive results. I saw all three teams in the qualifiers and they did very well, just like us, which means it is going to be tough for every team in the Group,” said Ngcongca.
“I was talking to my teammate Kara Mboji, who played in all the qualifiers for Senegal and he says he is worried by South Africa’s pace and skill. They watched our matches in the qualifiers too so they know what we are capable of, which shows they are also worried of us.”
The Cape Town-born defender says playing against such good teams, it is always important to have a good start.
“We will have to be ready for everything they throw at us because we want to make South Africa proud at the tournament. We know the strength of West Africans, with their physique, so we will have to stick to what we know best, not go into a physical battle with them as we will come second best. We must concentrate on our passing game and quick counter attacks. Judging from the qualifiers, we could be the team to beat as we finished unbeaten compared to the other three who each lost a match,” added Ngcongca.
“But for us, the first game will be very important as it will set the tone for the remainder of the tournament. You don’t want to play catch-up early on as it puts you at a disadvantage. Winning the opening match just makes life so easy, so we must strive for that.”
Algeria top continental rankings and, together with Ghana, took part in 2014 Brazil FIFA World Cup tournament earlier this year.
South Africa and Senegal will renew their rivalry since they last met two years ago in an international friendly match, which ended goalless.
Bafana Bafana and Ghana’s last match was in 2010 – it was former coach Pitso Mosimane’s first assignment – and he won 1-0 courtesy of a Katlego Mphela goal.
In their last encounter, Algeria and South Africa both played to a goalless draw in a friendly international last year.
The 2015 AFCON tournament was initially scheduled for Morocco, but the North African country opted out and Equatorial Guinea came in at short notice.
The draw took place on the same night that Bafana Bafana launched their new Nike kit which they will use at the tournament.
“I saw it on the social networks just after the draw and was very impressed. I really love this new design and I believe the new jersey will give us that much-needed boost to get past the group stages. Nike has done a great job,” concluded Ngcongca.
The tournament will be played from January 17 to February 8 in Bata, Ebebiyin, Malabo and Mongomo.
Here’s how they were drawn:
Equatorial Guinea, Burkina Faso, Congo, Gabon
Zambia, Cape Verde Islands, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tunisia
Ghana, Algeria, South Africa, Senegal
Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Guinea, Mali