Downs’ captain looking forward to Wydad clash

Hlompho Kekana
Picture: TimesLIVE

Hlompo Kekana relishes the challenges posed by the more tactical‚ less unpredictable North African teams‚ the Mamelodi Sundowns’ captain said about Sunday’s first leg of their Caf Champions League quarterfinal against Wydad Casablanca.

Much of the feel-good factor that was surround- ing South African football after Downs won last year’s Champions League has fallen away after the past week’s disastrous World Cup performance by Bafana Bafana against Cape Verde.

Sundowns could help re- store some of that by progressing past Moroccans Wydad‚ 1992 winners and 2011 finalists of the com- petition.

Downs‚ though‚ have been in somewhat temper- amental form‚ and victory over the two legs – starting at the Lucas Moripe Stadi- um on Sunday – is by no means assured.

Kekana at least relishes the prospect from his midfield general role against North African opposition‚ whose structure‚ he said‚ could make them a challenge‚ but also easier to plan against.

“I think the North Africans generally play the  same model of a game and I like playing them‚ to be honest‚” Kekana said.

“Because they give you time to think‚ they give you a lot of challenges tactically. They know how to score.

“As players we’re excit- ed to play against them.

“We know it’s not easy to win matches against them, but we learn a lot from these matches.

“You grow in these matches. You don’t play the same teams you would normally play week in and week out.

“You have to be on your toes the whole time‚ the level of concentration always has to be high‚ and it takes mental strength.

“I’ve seen players like Percy Tau and Themba Zwane doing well in the national team‚ and that’s the foundation that they got from this tournament.”

Perhaps a concern for Sundowns is that they are not as metronomically assured at home as they were in last season’s competition‚ though this year the Brazilians have been stronger on the road.

“I think we are much more aware of the situation we are in. We haven’t been doing well at home‚” Kekana admitted.

“We are aware that we have to win our matches at home to see ourselves in a good space when we go away.” – TimesLIVE

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