There is a lot waiting on new Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki, but he will be pleased to have kicked things off on a winning note.
The former SA Under-17 coach took charge of the senior men’s national team for the first time in a match on Sunday, guiding them to a 2-1 victory over Mali in a friendly held in Port Elizabeth.
The fixture was a much-needed warm-up ahead of a busy month in November, where Bafana begin their bid to qualify for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Cameroon.
Speaking after the match, where Dean Furman and Themba Zwane provided the goals for the hosts, Ntseki said he was happy to start on a winning note.
“I’m very happy to have won my first match against a very strong team,” Ntseki said.
“We really want to thank Mali for honoring the fixture and coming here to play us.
“We also want to thank every South African who supported us from day one. The journey doesn’t end here it has just started to qualify for AFCON 2021 and the Qatar World Cup.
“I think we did very well with our quick combinations as we have very creative skillful players who were confusing their defensive patterns with our quick movements and combinations,” noted Ntseki.
He added: “I think we had a very good tactical plan that worked well and we can’t look down on Mali. They are a very good team who are very physical but we did well handling them.”
Ntseki will now spend the next few months trying to poke holes in Sao Tome and Principe’s game structure ahead of their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier fixture.
Sao Tome beat Mauritius 3-1 in the first round of the preliminary stage and followed it up with a 2-1 victory in the second leg for a 5-2 aggregate win to secure themselves a spot in the qualifiers.
They are up against Bafana, Ghana, and Sudan in Group C.
Bafana kicks off their campaign with an away trip to Kumasi, Ghana, on November 14 and will host Sudan four days later at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto.
The 2021 Afcon qualifiers then take a nine-month break.
When the competition resumes in 2020, SA will play back-to-back matches against Sao Tome, on September 4 and 8 at home and away.
Bafana will host Ghana in October 2020 and, in the final match of the qualifiers in November, Ntseki’s charges travel to Sudan.
“We will have to do our research on Sao Tome because for us it is not only about qualifying for Afcon. For us it’s also about doing well if possible, to improve on our Fifa and Caf rankings,” the coach said in a statement issued on the team’s website.
“We don’t know much about Sao Tome, but we will do our homework properly so that when we play them we know what to expect. The same will be done with Sudan and Ghana.”
With four more weeks to go before the Ghana game, Ntseki said he would work on the team’s cohesion and tactics.
“We have a very motivated and happy team that understands and respects one another.
“That will make the tactics much easier because if you look at the team that we have now, there is that understanding and respect for one another.
“We will be up against explosive and talented players when we play against Ghana. They are more of a possession team because of the quality that they have on the team.
“So how do you counter that? Those are areas that we will be working on going into that match,” he added.
Cameroon will host the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.