A visit by President Jacob Zuma to inspect his troops on the eve of battle has given Confederations Cup hosts South Africa a huge boost ahead of Sunday’s opener against Iraq, captain Aaron Mokoena said.
Bafana Bafana (The Boys) go into the Group A confrontation with the Asian champions at Ellis Park in high spirits with, according to their Brazilian coach Joel Santana, no injury worries despite a lingering question mark over Teko Modise’s fitness.
And the charismatic South African head of state’s seal of approval at a Saturday morning training session has only heightened spirits in Santana’s squad.
“President Zuma made our day,” Mokoena told a press conference.
“For him to take time out from his busy schedule to wish us the best of luck meant a lot to the players. We hope to take that to the game and come out with a victory.”
Given South Africa’s recent mixed bag of results – they failed to qualify for next January’s African Nations Cup – many here believe it may take more than Zuma’s visit to ensure a decent Confed Cup run for the hosts.
Santana, whose defensive tactics are not to everyone’s liking, acknowledged the road has not always been as smooth as Table Mountain.
“We’ve had some difficult moments, our team has not always worked as well as we’d have hoped, but they’re making a huge effort and this is a real serious test ahead, but we’re sure of what we can deliver.
“There are great expectations – the expectations of the host before a party. This is an important moment for Africa and for this country and, of course, we want to play well.”
On his squad’s fitness, Santana, speaking in Portuguese, added: “All my players are fine. There were a few bruises this morning, but nothing serious. We’re ready and we want this to start as soon as possible.”
Turning to the role the fans can play in the South Africans’ campaign, Santana said: “We want them (supporters) to vibrate with us, the fans are part of the show, it’s a question of liberating positive energies.”
“The vibe is now starting and the mood is there,” agreed Mokoena.
“People can already see how the World Cup will be. It’s a great advantage playing at home, but it’s a massive, massive tournament, this rehearsal for the World Cup and we have to go out and enjoy it and make sure we perform.”
His words will be echoed in homes across the rainbow nation.
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