S Africa need to impress in Cape Verde opener
JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – Anything less than victory against debutants Cape Verde in Saturday’s 2013 Africa Cup of Nations curtain-raiser could spell potential disaster for under-fire hosts South Africa.
With 90,000 partisan vuvuzela-blowing fans cramming into Soweto’s magnificent Soccer City, the home nation is out to take a giant step towards the knockout stages in a group also featuring former winners Morocco, and Angola.
Bafana Bafana’s build-up has hardly been the stuff of potential champions but they will be counting on huge home support to help lift them as it did when they won their only previous Nations Cup in 1996.
The momentum built by an opening success would prove invaluable – defeat or a lacklustre draw could knock the stuffing out of Gordon Igesund’s side.
Since going all the way 17 years ago, South Africa’s fate in the continental showpiece has plummeted – they haven’t won a match since 2004 and failed to qualify for last year’s competition in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon in farcical circumstances. South African players, coaches and officials did not understand the widely-used head-to-head rule and played for a draw at home to Sierra Leone, believing a point would suffice.
Bafana players danced and sang their way around the stadium, convinced they had succeeded, only to discover later that minnows Niger had pipped them at the post.
The time has come so for the 2010 World Cup hosts to put some much needed pride back into the national game.