Bafokeng King wishes Bafana well

Thursday, March 24, 2011
By: 
Nthambeleni Gabara

Pretoria - Bafokeng King Leruo Molotlegi has wished Bafana Bafana well for their 2012 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier match against Egypt on Saturday at Ellis Park stadium. 

The national team has been preparing for the crucial encounter against the Pharaohs, camping at the Royal Marang Hotel in Phokeng in the North West since last week. 

During his surprise visit at the team's camp on Wednesday, King Molotlegi said: "You are our hope, we believe in you and we support you. I just want to wish you all the best for Saturday and advise you that you are going to face a hard match, given the challenges Egypt has. 

"They will want to overcome those challenges starting with this match, but we have confidence that you will make the nation proud. With your help, the nation stood together during the 2010 FIFA World Cup and we hope you will continue doing that."

Bafana will return to Johannesburg later this afternoon, where they will continue with their preparations for their Saturday fixture. Their final training session will be at the match venue on Friday afternoon. 

Bafana striker Katlego Mphela, who missed South Africa's two previous matches against the USA and Kenya, is optimistic about his side's chances against the Pharaohs. 

"It is good to be back in the squad and it means a lot to me as it indicates that the coach has faith in me. So now I need to repay that faith with a goal against Egypt. Our plan is to attack all the way," he said. 

If Mphela scores against the Pharaohs, he will become the third-highest scorer in Bafana history. He is presently tied on 18 goals with Philemon Masinga, trailing Benni McCarthy's 31 and Shaun Bartlett's 29 goals.

Steven Pienaar and Siphiwe Tshabalala are the two most experienced members of the current Bafana squad with 57 caps each to their names.

Pienaar, Tshabalala and Mphela are the only players in the Bafana squad who played against Egypt in the teams' last meeting in London in November 2006.

This will be the ninth meeting of South Africa and Egypt in senior international football. The teams have an even head-to-head record, with four wins apiece.

Bafana and the Pharaohs have never before met in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match. 

However, they have faced-off in two matches at the Afcon finals in 1996 with Egypt beating Bafana 1-nil in the group stages in Johannesburg and in 1998, the North Africans won 2-nil in the tournament finals in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Egypt have never played South Africa at Ellis Park, though they will still have good memories of the venue following their famous 1-nil win over the former World champions Italy in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup.

Egypt is the most successful national team in African football history. They were the first team from the continent to participate in the FIFA World Cup in 1934 and have racked up a record seven Africa Cup of Nations titles (1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008 and 2010).

Their head coach Hassan Shehata has been in charge of the national team since 2004 when he succeeded Italian Marco Tardelli. 

The 61-year-old led the Pharaohs to an unprecedented three straight triumphs in the Africa Cup of Nations, winning the 2006, 2008 and 2010 tournaments in Egypt, Ghana and Angola respectively.

Despite their success in the Afcon, Egypt has appeared at just two World Cup finals; their debut in 1934 and again in 1990, while Bafana have appeared in the World Cup three times; 1998, 2002 and 2010. 

The Pharaohs are training at Balfour Park Football Fields in Johannesburg, but they will not be granting media interviews until after match on Saturday which will be coinciding with Bafana striker, Davide Somma's 26th birthday.

Kick-off is 8:05pm.