Deflated Bafana arrive in Senegal for dead rubber
Cape Town – Bafana Bafana arrived in Dakar in the early hours of Sunday to start preparations for their final 2018 Soccer World Cup qualifier against Senegal.
The two teams met on Friday evening at a packed Peter Mokaba Stadium where the visitors capitalised on two errors to walk away with a precious 2-0 win.
"When one plays for the country, there is nothing like fulfilling the match. There is nothing like rubber matches. We are going into Tuesday’s game intent on winning and that's what we're aiming for,” said coach Stuart Baxter.
Despite looking weary from the marathon journey which saw the team leave Polokwane on Saturday after having done a two-hour regeneration exercise at the match venue, Bafana Bafana flew straight to Dakar on an 8-hour flight from OR Tambo Airport to the Senegal capital.
The team will partake in a late practice session on Sunday before rounding up preparations at the match venue on Monday evening. The match will take place at 21:30 (SA time).
All of Africa’s World Cup qualifying matches conclude at the same time on Tuesday in a campaign that has produced some amazing results and football.
Meanwhile, SAFA’s team medic, Dr Thulani Ngwenya has admitted to facing one of the most tricky weeks of his career so far regarding clearing number one goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune to play in Friday’s match.
Dr Ngwenya said he was faced with an awkward situation in which he would have received a backlash from fans and clubs had Khune aggravated his facial injury and would have been damned had he ruled him out of Friday’s match.
"It was one of the most difficult cases that I have come across in my career. But in the end, we did our best as a team and it paid off.
"I would have been damned had Itu aggravated his injury and would have been damned had I decided not to play him. In end, it was a brave and correct call that we made at the last minute to field him and it all went well,” said Dr Ngwenya.
"I would like to also give credit to the team physiotherapist and masseur for their professionalism and diligent work in making sure the player was fit to play."
The team medic said what made Khune’s situation more delicate was the fact that the public had seen him training with the rest of the team during the week and ruling him out at the last minute would have left the team’s plans in some discomfort. In our medical profession, we always put the health of the player ahead of anything else.
"But once we got scans from his club (Kaizer Chiefs), our main focus for the rest of the week was to make him ready for the game. We slowly integrated him into the team and the player responded positively.
"We however, had to make the final call on his inclusion into the team at the very last minute because every decision was very critical," he said.