Bafana vice-captain Siyanda Xulu says there is still a long way to go
Bafana Bafana vice-captain and defender Siyanda Xulu has warned that the good start in the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifying campaign will count for little if the team does not get favourable results in back-to-back qualifiers against Ethiopia on Saturday and Tuesday.
Bafana enter a critical stage of the campaign high on confidence after a draw against Zimbabwe in Harare and a home win over Ghana in their opening two qualifying matches last month to top Group G on four points.
“We don’t want to be complacent about what happened against Ghana, because we know very well that we were able to perform the way we did because of the preparations we had and the respect we gave to Ghana,” said the 29-year-old centre-back who plays for Hapoel Tel Aviv in the Israeli Premier League.
Bafana arrived in Bahir Dar on Thursday and will have a couple of training sessions at the match venue to acclimatise before the first match at 3pm SA time on Saturday.
“We are going to do the same thing against Ethiopia. They are going to earn our respect and we are going to prepare the way we always do whenever we play our tough encounters.
“That we have beaten Ghana and now we think that we have reached whatever it is that we want to reach, no.
“We are not even nearly there. We have played two matches but it does not mean anything, because there are still four matches to play.”
Ghana and Ethiopia have three points each and are second and third respectively, with Zimbabwe bottom of the group on one point.
Xulu said Bafana know what to expect from the hosts, having analysed Ethiopia’s narrow defeat away to Ghana and their home win over Zimbabwe.
“The fact that Ethiopia is sharing the same [three] points as Ghana shows that it is never easy.
“We watched the Ethiopia match against Ghana before we played Zimbabwe and they were competitive.
“They were getting into Ghana’s box, they were having chances and missing them, which shows they are a good team and they deserve respect.”
Xulu has marshalled a Bafana defence that is yet to breached in their two matches but will be tested to the limit against Ethiopia.
Coach Wubetu Abate has included three deadly strikers who scored more than 60 goals between them in the Ethiopian Premier League last season.
Abubeker Nassir smashed 29 goals in 23 appearances for Ethiopia Bunna FC, Mujib Kassim scored 20 goals, while Getaneh Kebede of Kedus St George has 15 goals.
“It is not about us at the back. It is about the whole team, because we start to defend from the front and that we have managed to do that and work as a team, it is reflecting on the pitch.
“I have quite a few Ethiopians playing in the same league in Israel and I know how tough they can be.
“I’m not familiar with their names but I can recognise them facially. I think it is three players, if I am not mistaken.
“We are very aware of the competition we are going to be up against because we are playing them at home.
“That is why I was persistent in warning the guys against being complacent.”
Bafana will host Ethiopia in the return match on Tuesday at 6pm in Johannesburg.
“In the second game we are looking forward to playing in front of our fans and make sure that we get results.
“Obviously we are a new team and we have a new coach. It is exciting and it has been looking positive from the past two games.”