Johannesburg – Bafana Bafana vice-captain Percy Tau has backed the team to grind out for the much-needed three points when they host neighbours Zimbabwe in the penultimate round of the World Cup qualifiers at home, FNB Stadium, on Thursday evening.
Ahead of the two final matches in the group stage of the qualifiers, Bafana have their fate in their own hands. They are top of Group G with 10 points, four away from ensuring that they finish top of the group and qualify for the next round.
But that’s easier said than done. They’ll meet a familiar Zimbabwean side that has nothing to lose, while Ghana still have a shot at qualifying for the next round as they are second – one point behind Bafana who'll visit them at home on Sunday.
However, a win for Bafana tomorrow night and a loss for Ghana away to Ethiopia at Orlando Stadium early in the day could mean that the South Africans will progress to the next round – where only five nations will qualify for the finals.
Tau and Co. are not willing to leave anything to chance though. Knowing that the odds favour Ghana against Ethiopia, they are hellbent on doing their bit against the Warriors at home, tonight, as they’ll just need a point away at the Cape Coast.
“We are looking forward to the game against Zimbabwe tomorrow (today). We know that it’s not going to be easy. But the group has done well in the four games. And we now want to do better and better. I am confident in the group,” Tau said.
Sure, Bafana have restructured, interrogating new players under the reign of coach Hugo Broos. But there are senior players – such as Tau and captain Ronwen Williams – who’ve endured the pain of losing control of their fate right at death.
In their last game of the 2020 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, Bafana failed to beat Sudan away from home and ultimately lost out on a spot in finals. This is where coach Molefi Ntseki was fired before Broos was assigned to rebuild the team.
“I think we cannot go back to the past. We can only go forward in the situation that we find ourselves in right now. The situations are different. We were in a race to qualify for Afcon but this one is for the World Cup,” the Al Ahly star said.
It is seniors, such as Tau, who'll be responsible for ensuring that they don’t repeat the mistakes of the past, including choking during crunch time. After all, for a third time in a row, their qualifiers for a major tournament could go down to the wire.
In 2019, they had to beat Libya in the last game, at a neutral Tunisia, to qualify for Afcon in Egypt, before their loss to Sudan ensured that they didn’t book their spot to Cameroon next year. But Tau is confident that they’ll get the job done.
“International football is different compared to playing for a big club wherever you are. I’ve been with the (national) team for some time and I’ve been in the situation whereby we have to qualify and we have our last game away,” Tau recalled.
“The guys will honour the opportunity to be here. They want to win and improve. They know how important international football is to our careers. It’s a young group, there are not many problems. That’s why we can easily get along also.”