Bafana Bafana defender Anele Ngcongca believes that despite South Africa not having big name players plying their trade in the European leagues, they will be able to compete.
Shakes Mashaba’s boys open their 2015 CAF Orange Africa Cup of Nations campaign against Algeria, the number one-ranked nation on the continent.
The match will take place on Monday, 19 January at the Estadio de Mongomo in Equatorial Guinea. Kick-off is at 20h00 local time (21h00 SA time).
Bafana Bafana is one of the teams in the tournament that boasts players from the local league in South Africa, but they are not fazed.
“Despite that the guys have done very well. If you look at the qualifiers you can see that we have a good squad even though they don’t play in the big leagues around the world. We faced Nigerian stars like Obi Mikel and company and managed to come out with the points so we are not worried about where the opposition plays. What matters is what happens on the day.
“The confidence and team spirit is very high, we just want to go out there and prove to the continent that South Africa has the talent. I believe with what we did in the qualifiers we can compete with those big name stars,” said Ngcongca.
“Every player that is here is quality. From what I have seen at training and the warm-up matches we played recently, I believe we can hold our own against the much-fancied Algeria. We are all aware that for the two teams it’s a crucial game and both want to start well. The squad that we have now has got fire in their eyes and the energy they have is unbelievable. We are all looking forward to this tournament and I think we can surprise a lot of teams.”
Many players in the tournament have used the event to market themselves, sometimes at the expense of the team, but Ngcongca has some advice.
“It is important for all the players to stand up and be counted, to impress so they can maybe get contracts outside the country which would be a good thing so that South Africa can also have more players playing abroad for the betterment of the team.
“The coach always tells us to go out there and do our best, and you can’t stop a player from playing for himself to get that lucrative contract and this is the correct stage to do that, but at the back of our minds we must always remember to play for the team. Yes it’s a good tournament to market yourself but we must always keep in mind that the team comes first, if the team wins you also win,” added Ngcongca.
The Belgium-based defender has a lot of experience in the national team. He has played in this tournament before and was also a member of South Africa’s 2010 FIFA World Cup squad. He knows what to expect in such a tournament and says it’s important to focus on their team.
“I know some players in the Algeria squad and I also have a club mate who is Algerian, but for us the focus is on our team, prepare as a team and not worry about the opposition. We will take one game at a time, we won’t put pressure on ourselves, you know football has got its own disappointments. But we are confident,” said Ngcongca.
South Africa held their first training in Mongomo on Saturday night (17 January) and will tonight (Sunday, 18 January) complete their preparation when they train at the match venue at 21h00.