If Bafana Bafana are to qualify for the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia, defender Thulani Hlatshwayo suggests that they bring back the hunger which inspired them to a successful 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign.
Bafana were unbeaten on their way to qualifying for the continental showpiece which was held in Equatorial Guinea last year and they desperately need to rediscover that form to qualify for the World Cup ahead of Senegal, Cape Verde and Burkina Faso in a tough Group D.
Their campaign starts with a difficult clash against the Burkinabe in Ouagadougou on Saturday at 8am, where Bafana have failed to win in their last two attempts in the World Cup qualifiers.
“Obviously, we are not happy for not qualifying for the Afcon in Gabon next year,” the MTN8 winning Bidvest Wits captain said.
“Now we have to bring back the hunger we had when we qualified for Equatorial Guinea. “It’s important that we start on a positive note.”
“We have been playing well away from home and we need to get a result, especially in the first game.”
“In football, there’s always pressure, but we have to deal with it. “The spirit is high and everyone is happy.”
The Bafana technical team will in all likelihood analyse some of Burkina Faso’s videos to see where their strengths and weaknesses are, but Hlatshwayo already knows what to expect from the likes of Jonathan Pitroipa, Aristide Bance and Bertrand Traore, the home side’s dangerous attacking trio.
Bance was on the books of Chippa United last season.
“We know Bance and we’ve seen Traore play. We know what we are up against”, Hlatshwayo said.
He looks set to partner Mulomowandau Mathoho in central defence, with Thabo Matlaba an outright favourite to start at left-back.
It is still unclear who is going to start at right-back between Abbubaker Mobara and Ramahlwe Mphahlele, who travelled with the team after the team doctor had a look at the ankle he sprained in Kaizer Chiefs’ league clash against Free State Stars last week.
It is a solid back four that needs to be focused throughout the game and not get intimidated by the supporters who are expected to come in their numbers to Stade Du 4 Aout.
Bafana landed in Ouagadougou yesterday and will have their first training session here today.
They will train at the match venue tomorrow and that is where coach Shakes Mashaba is likely to reveal his lineup for the match on Saturday.