Coach Gordon Igesund remained confident of World Cup qualification as his travel-weary Bafana Bafana squad prepared themselves for the second leg of their away trip.
Bafana defeated Central African Republic 3-0 at a neutral venue in Cameroon at the weekend, after delayed flights and a long bus ride disrupted their arrival and training plans.
Ahead of the team’s departure for Ethiopia today, Igesund said he was confident they could overcome the conditions, despite scheduling only one prematch training session on Saturday, before they square off against their hosts in Addis Ababa for top spot in the group.
“Ethiopia are a formidable side and can pass the ball nicely, but for me the challenges will be the altitude and the condition of the pitch,” said Igesund.
“I know we are up for the challenge and the boys have the mental strength to deal with any situation because they are fully focused on the task ahead.”
Having stumbled early on in their qualifying campaign, before Igesund was appointed, South Africa won their last two matches to climb within two points of group leaders Ethiopia.
Igesund said his players were eager to take to the field on Sunday in an attempt to gain control of the group, as they set their sights on the third and final qualifying round.
“We can’t wait for the game because we have worked so hard,” he said.
“We find ourselves in a situation where we started badly, but we are back on track now.
“We should beat Ethiopia and take that confidence to the match against Botswana where we still cannot afford to take things for granted. We really want to go to the World Cup.”
Despite facing numerous injury concerns in defence, Bafana kept clean sheets and scored seven goals in their last three matches – two World Cup qualifiers and a friendly against Lesotho.
Igesund lauded his backline for standing firm and gave credit to his strikers for taking the game to their opposition.
“We cannot ask for more than that from the defenders. We scored seven goals in three games and did not concede. That is remarkable.
“I am proud of the team for the work they have been doing. What works for us is that we defend as a team and attack as a unit and results are there for all to see.”
Bafana defender Ricardo Nunes was rested at training on Wednesday as a precautionary measure, according to team management, after he complained of tight thigh muscles.
He was expected back at training with the rest of his team-mates on Saturday.
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