BAFANA Bafana captain Steven Pienaar says it feels good to be back in the national team after months on the sidelines due to an injury. The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder hasn’t played for South Africa since March this year in the one nil victory over Egypt in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier played at the Ellis Park Stadium.
He travelled with the squad for the return leg in Cairo but could not play after failing to recover from an injury he sustained on the eve of departure to Egypt.
Pienaar is now back in the team that will face Cote d’Ivoire in the Nelson Mandela Challenge. The match will be played at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth this coming Saturday.
“It’s a pleasure to be back and I am looking forward to the match. It was very sad when I missed so many games and I hope to put the disappointment behind me. It was frustrating times for me and not being able to contribute to the team left me feeling helpless on the sidelines. But I had to make a decision regarding the operation I had to solve my problem, so I am just happy to be back and smiling again,” said Pienaar.
He is well aware of the what to expect on Saturday.
“We have a lot of youngsters in the squad but we know we can mix it with the best in the business. Though it’s going to be a tough match we must make the best of it. Our challenge in not scoring goals has been in the final third because we create a lot of chances but make wrong decisions. With time it will get better. Also it was very disappointing not to qualify for Afcon but we need to forget about what happened in the past and move on,” added Pienaar.
Other players had this to say about the clash against Cote d’Ivoire.
“It’s going to an exciting game between two quality teams that believe in attacking football, and this is one match we have to win for South Africa. It could have been good to play against a top striker like Didier Drogba as I have great confidence in our defence which would have taken him on. As for me it’s always been a dream of mine to play for my country and given a chance I will definitely do my best,” said Turkey-based striker Bradley Grobler.
“It’s a big game playing against the best on the continent. We are facing a team that possesses big name players and we know it won’t be an easy match, but a win will be very important for us to forget about the past. We are confident we can do it,” said defender Anele Ngcongca.
“This is a very important match as it will be played for a good cause. It’s not only about football, but also about humanity – helping those less fortunate than us. On the match itself we have a good defensive record and I can attribute that to the whole team because we play as a unit. We are going up against a very good team and that is a great thing as we will be testing ourselves against the best. I believe we are up to the task,” concluded defender Morgan Gould.
Bafana Bafana started with their training sessions yesterday and they will will have more sessions today and tomorrow in the Friendly City before tacking Cote d’Ivoire on Saturday. The visitors are expected to arrive in South Africa on today.
Tickets are still available around the country at Computicket, Shoprite and Shoprite/Checkers stores for one hundred rand for the West lower stand and fifty rand for all the other areas. No tickets will be sold on match day.