2014 Fifa World Cup Qualifier

South Africa v Ethiopia – Sunday 3rd March - Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace, Rustenburg (15:00)

South Africa v Ethiopia

Bafana Bafana start their 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil qualifying campaign this weekend when they face Ethiopia in Rustenburg. Then they travel to face Botswana next weekend. The two qualifiers will be followed by an International Friendly against AFCON 2012 co-hosts Gabon on June 15th. The other team in their qualifying group is Central African Republic who they will face next year March.

As things stand, national coach Pitso Mosimane will have a full complement of players to choose from ahead of this match. Mosimane spoke ahead of the qualifiers, and said that winning these matches is more important than playing well. “It is important to win the game at all costs – at this point in time the key is to win the game and not focus on playing very well. The country deserves a win.” He also said he is concerned about Ethiopia’s ‘stubborn defence’, but says Bafana’s recent experience against similar teams should count in their favour. “Ethiopia is a very stubborn team that doesn’t give up and give in to pressure. They have a very quick team up front and a very compact defence, but we think we have the ammunition and the players to unlock this ultra-defensive approach.” After two years out of South Africa’s national team, striker Siyabonga Nomvethe has forced his way back into the Bafana squad, thanks to his superb form in the PSL, where he scored 20 goals this season, eight more than the next highest scorer. He scooped four accolades at the PSL Awards last Sunday night earning the Footballer of the Year, PSL’s Top Scorer, PSL’s Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year. The rejuvenated striker has been capped 79 times and netted 16 goals, which isn’t the greatest return. However, most of his appearances were off the bench. Bafana’s biggest problem has for a long time been its goal scoring, so it makes sense to restore the experienced Nomvethe to the national team, even at the age of 34. Nomvethe announced his comeback to Bafana with a hat-trick in a 7-0 practice-match whitewash of Vodacom side Impala Warriors last Saturday. Steven Pienaar, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Lehlohonolo Majoro and Andile Jali were the other scorers in Rustenburg. The league’s second highest goal scorer, Eleazar Rodgers of Santos, is one of four new caps in the 27-man squad, which once again underlines the search for a consistent goal scorer for the national team. Rodgers, who scored a crucial goal in Santos’ 1-0 win over Thanda last week, re-joins the national team after the National First Division play-offs were suspended due to a protest by an NFD club. Nomvethe and Rodgers are joined up front by new cap Tokelo Rantie of Orlando Pirates, Lehlohonolo Majoro and mainstay Katlego Mphela.

Little known Ethiopia lie 138th on the FIFA World Rankings, 71 places below South Africa’s 67th position. As a lower ranked team Ethiopia were pitted against Somalia in a two-leg knock-out match in order to qualify for the group stages. They drew the first leg 0-0 before handing Somalia a 5-0 thrashing in Ethiopia. They are expected to approach this match looking for a point as they have been dreadful when playing away, having not won a match in almost a year and a half.

Bafana have proven very tough to beat under Mosimane when playing in South Africa, even during the AFCON qualifiers in which they didn’t manage to qualify for. They are unbeaten in their last seven home matches but have drawn blanks in five of those. With the attacking threat of Nomvethe added to the squad and the potential feature of target man Rodgers, Bafana look much more likely to turn their possession into goals this time.




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