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Bafana cling to Brazil hopes


NIGERIA'S "Super Eagles" will sharpen Bafana Bafana's claws before the critical World Cup qualifier against Botswana in September.This was the view expressed by Bafana coach Gordon Igesund yesterday regarding the testing game scheduled against the formidable African Nations Cup holders next month.

The Nigeria match will be staged as this year's annual Nelson Mandela Challenge fixture, a few days before the joint rugby-soccer extravaganza at which Bafana will play Burkina Faso and the Springboks take on Argentina in a Four Nations showdown.

The matches will be on August 17 at FNB Stadium in honour of Mandela.

Bafana media officer Matlhomola Morake said the Nelson Mandela Inauguration game had been switched from the usual date in November to fit in with the celebrations surrounding Madiba's 95th birthday this month.

And Igesund reiterated that in spite of Bafana still trailing Ethiopia by two points going into the final qualifier against Botswana, clinging to the hope of playing in next year's World Cup in Brazil remained the overriding priority.

"I think watching the recent Confederations Cup matches in Brazil on TV emphasised the enormous boost it would be for South African soccer to be going to the World Cup," added the Bafana coach.

Igesund has been faced with the daunting task of furthering Bafana's World Cup dream when he took over from Pitso Mosimane after four vital points had already been dropped from the home fixture against Ethiopia and a draw away against Botswana.

It seemingly became an impossible dream when Bafana were beaten 2-1 by Ethiopia in Addis Ababa last month, with hopes revived when the east Africans were penalised three points for fielding a suspended player in an earlier win over Botswana and South Africa came back from the dead as far as World Cup qualification was concerned.

"Every game Bafana Bafana play makes an important contribution to future progress," said Igesund.

"That includes the forthcoming Cosafa Cup tournament in Zambia with a depleted squad.

"But clinging to the World Cup dream overshadows everything else - no matter how the path to Brazil remains filled with obstacles."



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