Bafana Bafana defender Thabo Matlaba says they should not get ahead of themselves as qualification for the group stages of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia qualifiers is only the beginning of the journey.

Bafana Bafana defender Thabo Matlaba says they should not get ahead of themselves as qualification for the group stages of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia qualifiers is only the beginning of the journey. He added hard work lies ahead.

Bafana Bafana defeated Angola 1-0 in the second leg of Round 2 of the qualifiers in Durban (Tuesday, 17 November) to book their place among 19 other countries who vie for the five spots to represent Africa in Russia in 2018.

South Africa proceeded on a 4-1 aggregate followng their 3-1 victory over the Palancas Negras in Angola last week (Friday, 13 November).

“The most important thing is that we need to keep in mind is that we have not arrived, this was just another win and we need to keep working hard until we achieve our goal of qualifying. The journey has just begun so we have to stay focussed as hard work lies ahead,” said Matlaba. “It was very important for us to win because we want to compete with the other big guns and this round was just the first step to getting there. We missed out on Brazil in 2014 and I am glad we are very much on course for Russia 2018. We just have to wait for the draw to see who is in our group and we take it from there. But we know nothing will be easier going forward – every team wants to play on the big stage.”

Matlaba admits they were under tremendous pressure in the beginning of the match but managed to settle down later which saw them get a goal.

“Remember we had the advantage of a two-goal lead, they needed to score three without reply from us, so we had to be smart and not give them a scoring chance as it might have altered the complexion of the game. But when Serero and Vilakazi came on in the second half, we changed our approach because by then we had already soaked too much pressure denying them a goal. We were able to play better football then,” added Matlaba.

Serero concurs. “I think we played well, we had a plan, we stuck to it and it worked. Everyone did their job on the field hence we came out with a win. Yes we started very slow, but it worked in our favour because we had sort of done the business in the first leg – those goals we scored were very crucial and somehow dicatated how we started in the second leg. They had to come to us. It was good to win away first and come home to finish the job,” said Serero.

The Ajax Amsterdam midfieder says they will have to face anyone in group stages to make it the big stage. “We have a bunch of good players and we really want to do well for the national team. We haven’t done well in a very long time and we are the first to admit, but I think things are changing now and the two matches against Angola are a good indication of what we can do. We can’t pick who to play in the group stages, but in my view the harder the group the better as it is much easier to plan against them and also we want to play against the best in the business,” added Serero.

Twenty teams will be drawn into five round robin, home and away groups of four teams each. Five group winners will qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia tournament.

FIFA is yet to announce the date for the draw.

20 Qualified teams into the Group Stages:

South Africa Algeria
Cameroon Ghana
Egypt Cote d’Ivoire
Nigeria Senegal
Tunisia Burkina Faso
Cape Verde Islands Congo
Mali Libya
Democratic Republic of Congo Gabon
Guinea Uganda
Zambia Morocco

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