Bafana Bafana will be hoping to get their first win in East London when they host Zambia in a Chan qualifier at Buffalo City Stadium today (kick off 3pm).
This will be the third time the senior national team will be playing in East London. The two previous games, against Zimbabwe in a Cosafa Cup in 2003 and an international friendly against Angola in March did not yield the desired results for the team.
The Warriors edged Bafana 1-0 while the Palancas Negras held Bafana to a goalless draw in March.
Bafana will be determined to get maximum results today as they will travel to Zambia for the second leg of the Chan qualifier – something the team knows will be a mammoth task.
And making matters more difficult for Bafana is the fact that coach Stuart Baxter and his technical team had to deal with teams withdrawing at least 10 players from national duty.
As a result, the Briton this week described the preparations for today’s game as the most challenging experience of his decorated coaching life. He told journalists this week that Chipolopolo will not be a walk in the park, as they have brought a tough team.
While the Chan qualifier falls outside the Fifa calender – which means teams do not have to release their players for the national team – Bafana will be using the tournament and the Cosafa to widen the pool of players to choose from.
Players on the fringe like Asavela Mbekile at Mamelodi Sundowns, Kaizer Chiefs striker Ryan Moon and the talented yet underrated Black Leopards maestro, Sphelele Ntshangase, will be eager to put in good performances in national team colours.
Speaking after the team’s first training session in East London, captain Mario Booysen said they will give 100% on the field to give fans something to cheer about.
“We are quite confident, especially playing in East London looking at the way the fans welcomed us when we arrived here.
“We know there is a lot of support coming from this side and we just have to come up with the correct performance.
“It is important that we do well in the first leg because we don’t want to go to Zambia next week needing to get a result as it will be more difficult when we travel for the return leg.
“The most important thing is not to concede but on the other hand we need to score goals to stand any chance of winning this two-legged affair and qualifying for the tournament.
“We have had our challenges this week but we will put them aside,” the Sundowns defender said.