Bafana target good start in World Cup qualifier
Itumeleng Khune’s goalkeeping error put Bafana Bafana under pressure in the match that effectively cost them their chances in their qualifying campaign for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations.
But South Africa’s goalkeeping stalwart said he did not feel personal pressure as Bafana left OR Tambo International Airport yesterday on a mission to get their 2018 World Cup qualifiers off to a better start against Burkina Faso on Saturday.
Khune’s goalkeeping error in just the fifth minute of Bafana’s Gabon 2017 qualifier in Nouakchott in September last year‚ fumbling Aly Abeide’s innocuous free-kick through his arms‚ gifted Mauritania the lead and set up South Africa’s 3-1 defeat.
Following a 0-0 home draw against Gambia‚ Bafana’s chances of qualification were all but dashed after two matches.
Khune said he had enough experience at 29‚ having played in World Cups and Nations Cup final tournaments ‚ to know that goalkeeping errors happened to the best between the posts.
“I don’t feel it as much [personal pressure]‚ because I know I’ve got 10 more players on the field who are experienced as well‚” the Kaizer Chiefs gloveman said.
“So all the pressure is on the team‚ not just me. But if certain individuals perform well, the team will definitely do well. “For me‚ what’s important is bouncing back from that mistake.”
“It helped that after that‚ the coach still had faith in me. He gave me the responsibility to lead the team.”
“Things like those happen to the world stars‚ and world’s best goalkeepers. And I managed to bounce back and perform well for the team.”
Khune was working his way back from an injuryplagued period when Bafana travelled to play on Nouakchott’s artificial turf.
He grew in strength in the rest of South Africa’s failed 2017 campaign.
The keeper also had an excellent‚ confidence-boosting tournament for South Africa’s Olympic team at Rio 2016 in August.
“That’s exactly what I’m talking about – bouncing back from when you fall down‚”
Khune said of his performance at the Olympics in Brazil‚ where South Africa drew against the hosts in the opening game but could not progress past the group stage.
“I’ve played in big tournaments – the World Cup‚ the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana at the age of 19. “All that experience I have been collecting, I think will work to the team’s advantage going into this campaign.”
Khune said South Africa’s experiences in their Nations Cup campaign‚ where they finished third in their group‚ had heightened Bafana’s awareness this time of the need for a good start.
“It’s huge to start well. And it’s very important that we continue with the good brand of football‚ and we create chances and we take them.”
“Because in the last campaign we played four draws‚ which is not good. If we had collected all those points we would have qualified for the Afcon.”
Bafana are drawn with Burkina Faso‚ Senegal and Cape Verde Islands in Group D of the Confederation of African Football’s (Caf) qualifiers for the World Cup in Russia in 2018.