SAFA technical director Neil Tovey is quietly optimistic over Bafana Bafana’s chances against Nigeria, but admits previous results have added unnecessary pressure ahead of Saturday’s clash.
The two countries meet in a top-of-the-table Group E 2019 African Nations Cup qualifier, where a win for the hosts will secure a spot at the continental tournament in Cameroon, while a draw or loss will make next year’s clash against Libya the deciding contest.
Tovey, who captained South Africa to AFCON glory in 1996, feels confident ahead of the encounter, insisting that the nature of the opposition will motivate the players to lift their game.
“I’m more confident against Nigeria than I am against anyone else because I know the mentality will change as the players know they’re up against it,” he tells KickOff.com. “Your mentality comes from your approach and everything. So this might drive them a bit more, from a mental point, into a team dynamic. But I think where we are really lacking is in big-game moments, not taking those chances – that happened against the Seychelles – a big-game moment is when you’re under the crossbar, and you put the ball into the net.”
Looking at Bafana’s overall qualification campaign so far, which includes two wins and two draws form the four games played, Tovey says he wished the team was in a better position, especially following the goalless draw against minnows Seychelles last time out.
“It’s been a rollercoaster ride,” he says. “After four games, and after the two Seychelles games, we should have been a lot closer to qualifying. Home and away at Seychelles, we should have really done the job. But you get matches where you just don’t put the ball across the goal line – I don’t think it had anything to do with tactics. On the day, if you don’t take your chances, it makes it all the more difficult, and it gives a team like Seychelles the confidence to lift their game. But if we had scored the first goal, I think it would have been another case of 4 or 5-0 – we just needed that first goal, which never came about through the inability to concentrate at the vital time.”
Libya currently sit four points behind Bafana, yet are expected to do the job away at Seychelles on Saturday afternoon, and will have the slight advantage in the final group qualifier at home to South Africa.