A lot will be expected from hosts Bafana Bafana when they play in the Orange CAF African Nations Championship (South Africa CHAN 2014).
South Africa’s first match is against Mozambique tomorrow at the Cape Town Stadium.
Kick-off is at 6pm.
They will then face Mali on Wednesday (January 15) and then round off the group stages with a clash against Nigeria on Sunday (January 19).
Team Media Officer Matlhomola Morake spoke to Bafana Bafana captain Itumeleng Khune to get his thoughts on the tournament:
Matlhomola Morake: What can we expect from the team?
Itumeleng Khune: We are looking forward to the tournament. It is going to be a tough one. It is a new year with new challenges, so we just want to write our own history as the class of 2014 and go all the way to the final and win because we are the hosts and a lot is expected of us. We have to go out there and do what we can to win the tournament.
MM: There is a mixture of youth and experience in the team….
IK: First of all I want to welcome the new players (Lindokuhle Mbatha, Asavela Mbekile, Kwanda Mngonyama) in the national team set-up and wish them all the best. After a couple of training sessions, they have fitted in like gloves and if you look at our training sessions you would think they have been here for a while, which is good for the country. I believe we have a formidable team and we are very optimistic about our chances.
MM: Mozambique as the first match, how important is that?
IK: As a player, every match you play is important more so in the national team where you are representing millions of people with a lot of expectations. We all know what is at stake. The plan is to go for three points against Mozambique so that we go into the second match against Mali without pressure. In any tournament you need to win the first game as it could determine how far you can go. When you have collected the first three points you can breathe easily. It would be great to get all nine points in the group stages but we know it is not going to be easy, we have the fighting spirit needed for the tournament.
MM: The last international match against Spain raised expectations….
IK: Having beaten the World and European Champions we go into this tournament with an extra boost. But at the same time we are aware that teams will want to defeat us, so we have to fight to get positive results. As the hosts we have been doing well and if we continue from where we left off we will have won half the battle. We are a very balanced team and I believe we have players that are capable of doing well for the pride of the nation. We have been working very hard over the last few days and we are confident that come Saturday, we will do well.
MM: The fans, what can you say to them?
IK: The fans have played a major role in the past and we really appreciate and value their support. We urge them to come in numbers to continue with the support – hearing the vuvuzelas gives us extra confidence. Those who have not bought tickets yet must just do so and rally behind the national team. But for those who cannot make it, we know you are behind the team and are grateful for that.
BAFANA’S FIXTURES – Cape Town Stadium
Saturday, January 11 – vs Mozambique (6pm)
Wednesday, January 15 – vs Mali (5pm)
Sunday, January 19 – vs Nigeria (7pm)