SOUTH AFRICA will look to reclaim the Nelson Mandela Challenge when they host Nigeria at the Moses Mabhida Stadium tonight, kick-off at 8.
Bafana Bafana have failed in the last three editions of the event, losing to the United States in 2010 and playing to a draw against Cote d’Ivoire in 2011 before losing to Zambia last year. “It’s a must for us to win this trophy because last time we lost it to Zambia on home soil,” said captain Itumeleng Khune.
“This is going to be a tough challenge, but we have to do it for our national pride and also to improve our Fifa ranking.
“Winning against Nigeria will put us in a good position and give us confidence ahead of the other tough game against Burkina Faso and then Botswana next month.
“We’re expecting our supporters to come out in numbers and what’s left for us as players is to go out there and perform.
“Nigeria have a good squad, but we do as well, and we just have to play to the best of our ability.”
Bafana will face Burkina Faso in Saturday’s Nelson Mandela Sports and Culture Day at the FNB Stadium before playing a crucial 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifier against Botswana in September.
Gordon Igesund’s second string side recently finished in third place in the Cosafa Cup, but this group of players will be looking to bounce back following the 2-1 loss to Ethiopia.
Nigeria, on the other hand, are also hoping to use this challenge as part of the preparations for their World Cup qualifier against Malawi, also set to take place in September.
“It is an honour for us to be part of this event which celebrates the life of an icon like Nelson Mandela,” said Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi.
“We had other friendly offers, but when this Mandela Challenge came up it was an opportunity we had to take. South Africa are one of the top sides in Africa, they have great players and this is going to be a good test for us.
It’s also a relevant friendly match to play ahead of our qualifier against Malawi because both teams play a similar style of football.
“We’d like to win the match, but the most important thing is having the players back together again after two months and playing good football on the day.”
Bafana will be without defender Bevan Fransman, who will rejoin the squad before the Burkina Faso clash, as well as fullback Anele Ngcongca, who failed to arrive from Belgium.
The Super Eagles, on the other hand, will be missing 2013 Africa Cup of Nations golden boot winner Emmanuel Emenike, as well as Chelsea midfielder Mikel John Obi, who has been hit by illness.-Supersport.
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