Mashaba puts unbeaten record on line

MashabaFOR Shakes Mashaba and his team, the wait for their first appearance in this year’s Africa Cup of Nations could not come quickly enough.

Unbeaten in his third stint as Bafana Bafana coach, Mashaba has rejuvenated a sleeping giant and will hope current form counts when the team need it most.

After topping Group A of the qualification campaign and going six games without defeat, Bafana qualified for their first major tournament without the help of being the host nation for the first time in six years.

Now, Bafana’s redemption mission moves to its next big hurdle.

Standing in Mashaba’s way would undoubtedly be his biggest test of the tournament as Algeria lie in wait at Estadio de Mongomo in today’s second Group C opener.

As the continent’s top-ranked team, Algeria would want to build on their strong showing at last year’s Fifa World Cup in Brazil, where the Desert Warriors were the only team to push eventual winners, Germany, all the way.

It took a late, extra-time, goal to book Germany’s spot in the next round as the world’s football experts rang out of superlatives for Algeria.

South Africa would have to overcome pace and power from the free-flowing Algerians, who won five out of their six qualifiers, losing just once, in their final game of the tournament, when qualification had already been secured.

Bafana, however, have hardly put a foot wrong since Mashaba took over from Gordon Igesund last year.

The national team has faired well in their preparation for the continental showpiece.

A nervy 1-0 win over Zambia was followed by a 1-1 draw with Cameroon, before hammering Mali 3-0 in their final warm-up match last weekend.

Injury concerns have toyed with Mashaba and his technical team since arriving in Equatorial Guinea but the likes of Andile Jali, Eric Mathoho and Tokelo Rantie appear to be 100 percent and raring to go.

“Our arrival here signals the beginning of the tournament, if ever there were any doubts about the event then they need to be removed,” Mashaba said upon arrival in Mongomo this week.

“We have gone about our business with our preparations and we are happy with our achievements and now we wait for Algeria.”

Should Mashaba and his troops get a positive result out of Monday’s first big assignment, their path to the next round may be made that much smoother.

But with Senegal and then Ghana to follow, South Africa would be hard-pressed to allow themselves any time for reflection on how far the team has come since Mashaba’s appointment in August last year. — AFP

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