Mphela to face late fitness test

Sunday, September 4, 2011
By: 
Nthambeleni Gabara

Pretoria-Bafana Bafana striker, Katlego "Killer" Mphela, will face a late fitness test a few hours before South Africa take on Niger in an away 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Niamey. 

The Mamelodi Sundowns goal scorer sustained a knee injury at training on Wednesday before the team flew to Niger. 

The match will be played at the General Seyni Kountche Stadium. Kick-off is at 3:30pm local time in Niger (4:30pm in South Africa).

Bafana coach, Pitso "Jingles" Mosimane made the announcement at the conclusion of his team's preparations on Saturday at the match venue. 

"If it means waiting until the last minute for Mphela I will do so, but let me hasten to add that I will not risk him if he is not hundred percent fit and waste a substitute. 

"I have brought 23 players in total so Mphela can't make this it is the time to give another player a chance because I have options. I did the same in Cairo with Steven Pienaar, so we will wait, but I am hopeful he will make it," said Mosimane after the squad's last training session."

South Africa arrived at the stadium to the welcome of hundreds local fans who wanted to watch the training session.

The coach also warned that Bafana will not show mercy to Niger as both countries will be fighting to get the three points. 

"We have to play for a win against Niger so we don't have to play for a result against Sierra Leone next month. The mentality I have instilled in the players is about winning the match, and a draw will be the worst result for us. 

"We are not in Niger to play beautiful fancy football. [We want to] show South Africans how [well] we can play. Now what they want is for the team to qualify and we have to do everything in our power to qualify. The formula has been to get three points at home and, at worst, get a draw away, I must say so far so good, but the ideal way to do things would be to win every match," said Mosimane.

Bafana Bafana will be captained by midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala who is not fazed by Niger's record of not having lost at home, and believes they can change that despite missing several key players due to injuries.

"We are missing some players, but as a national team we have players in our midst who need to raise their hands and fight for their country. Fortunately over the last few months we have been playing as a collective and we know we can do it against Niger. 

"It's going to be tough because they are also desperate for a win. We have studied them during this camp and we know them very well, we are also aware they are very dangerous at home but we have a plan. As a country we missed out on qualifying for the 2010 Afcon, so it's very important for us to make it to Equatorial Guinea and Gabon," he said. 

The reigning African champions, Egypt failed to qualify for the 2012 Afcon finals after they lost 2-1 to Sierra Leone. 

Other countries who have already qualified for next year's Afcon finals are co-hosts Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Senegal and the Ivory Coast.-BuaNews