South Africa coach Shakes Mashaba spoke with NURUDEEN OBALOLA and JOHNNY EDWARD in Uyo, telling them he will give the Super Eagles a tough time
Are you going all out against Nigeria or will you be relaxed because your team has already qualified for AFCON?
No, no; I don’t want to hear about relaxing please. We’re coming to play and compete with Nigeria; there’s no relaxing. Like all other games, this game still counts a lot.
Are you confident that you can beat Nigeria in their backyard?
We’re always confident. That’s why we are where we are. We started the campaign well and we’ve kept the same level of competing, no changes.
South Africa have never beaten Nigeria in a competitive match, will that play on your mind during the match?
That is history; it’s history. It’s not going to be on our minds. All those other games you’re reminding us about are in the past; this is another game.
So your plan is to break the jinx…
(Cuts in) We’re not breaking any jinx. We’re not here to break anything. We’re here to compete and play good football.
Isn’t there something about the Nigerian team that worries you, the star players…?
No, we’re not worried about anything. We played them in Cape Town and saw them. We know they played Congo and know the players they used, but that’s immaterial. Yesterday, today and tomorrow will never be the same. You can see a team good yesterday, today it’s not good. We have prepared for the game against Nigeria.
You have a very young team that looks like going places. How has it been working with the lads?
It’s time for changes in South African football. We’re no more going to look at names, age and experience. You know people say they lack experience when they’ve lost games but experience is a name we give to our past mistakes. If you don’t give the young players a chance, where do they get the experience you’re talking about? Good players don’t rely on experience.
Looking at the group when the draw was made, did you ever expect to be through while Nigeria struggled?
Anything is possible. Like I said, we’re going through change in our football and we don’t really care what other countries are doing. That Nigeria is struggling is no surprise; these things happen in football. Whoever thought that Brazil and Spain would struggle at the World Cup? These are clear indications that the world is rotating, changes are taking place.
What would it mean to you to deny Nigeria qualification for AFCON?
We’re not here to deny anybody from qualifying, we’re coming to play. There are four teams in the group and we told ourselves that we need to qualify. We didn’t say we have to be this or stop that. We said we want to keep a clean record and beat all the teams in our group. We didn’t look at who’s this one or who’s that one.
But you know how important this game is to Nigeria?
I don’t know, I don’t know. I think it’s as important to them as it is to us.