15 August 2017 – Bafana Bafana midfielder midfielder Jabulani Shongwe believes that despite Zambia scoring two away goals, South Africa was capable of doing the same or even better away from home.
Zambia came from behind to draw 2-2 with the hosts in the first leg of the third and final round of the 2018 CHAN qualifiers on Saturday, 12 August 2017 at Buffalo City Stadium in East London.
But despite the disappointment of surrendering the two goal advantage, Shongwe thinks it is still anyone’s game to qualify for Kenya 2018.
“We were really disappointed because we knew we were supposed to win that match, but unfortunately it didn’t happen so we have to keep our heads up because now we have no other option but to win the second leg, and we will do our best to get that win,” said Shongwe as Bafana Bafana prepare for the return match in Ndola, Zambia.
“It is going to be very difficult because we don’t know what Zambia will bring to the table – whether they will defend the two away goals or go on an all-out attack to try to win the match, but we have to go there and work very hard. We have to score to get a win, so an early goal will settle the nerves a bit and will keep our chances of qualifying alive.”
Shongwe adds that the players know that the away goals mean Zambia has one foot in the tournament.
“The two away goals are a serious setback because we know that had it ended 2-0, it was going to be easier when we get to Zambia, but knowing they have two away goals means we have to work harder to get a victory. But we still have a big chance of winning the match – they scored two in our backyard and I see no reason why we can’t score two on the other side too,” added Shongwe.
“This match is very important because it is the last hurdle before qualification to the tournament so that is why we have to give it our all – we have come too far to let it slip. Qualifying for the tournament in Kenya will also be good exposure for all of us, so a win will do the entire team a world of good because we might stand a good chance of being part of the AFCON and World Cup qualifiers.”
But he is aware they have a mountain to climb, more so because seven players who were part of the squad in the first leg have left camp for various reasons, four of them played in the match – Gift Motupa, who scored South Africa’s opening goal, as well as Menzi Masuku, Asavela Mbekile and Tercious Malepe.
“It’s a huge loss for us as a team even though we understand why they had to leave. Now we will have new players and this means we might have to start afresh with our tactics to accommodate the new arrivals. But I have confidence that the guys that are here will help the players coming in to adjust quickly because we have a job to do,” said Shongwe.
“It’s going to be tough but we have soldier on. We will do the best we can. All is not lost, we still have a good chance and I think we will do well in Zambia, I have a strong feeling we will qualify.
The Bidvest Wits player hasn’t played for Bafana Bafana since 2015 in the international friendly match against Honduras in San Pedro, and says it was a great honour to return to the national team set up.
“It felt very good donning the national team jersey again after such a long time. What made it more exciting is that I haven’t been playing much at my club so the call-up was a great surprise and a huge morale booster for me. When I was given the chance to play I told myself I will do the best I can so I could be in the coach’s plan in future because we all don’t know what tomorrow holds – if you get a chance you need to utilise it well. The main aim was not to disappoint myself, my club, my supporters and the entire nation and I believe as a team we did well,” concluded Shongwe.
The match between South Africa and Zambia will be played on Saturday, 19 August at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium, with a 15h00 kickoff.
Bafana Bafana leave for Zambia on Thursday morning (18 August 2017), and return to South Africa on Sunday afternoon (20 August).