I am happy with the AFCON draw – Thulani Hlatshwayo

Bafana Bafana captain Thulani Hlatshwayo says he is happy with the draw for the Total 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, and he finds it very interesting. South Africa is in Group D alongside former winners Ivory Coast and Morocco, as well as neighbours Namibia.

READ: Group of Death! South Africa, Ivory Coast & Morocco

“This is a very interesting draw, and I am very happy with it. I am glad we did not get so-called small nations because we seem to be at our best when we face big name countries, so I am confident we will do well. Mind you, we started the qualifications with a win (vs Nigeria) and ended with another fine win (vs Libya) and both matches were away – not only that, we also qualified without losing a game, and that means we are doing something right. So we have to continue where we left off and I believe with the nation behind us we will get it right,” said Hlatshwayo.

“What makes this more exciting personally is that I have never played against Ivory Coast and Morocco at senior level, but I am very aware of what they are all about. They are physical but that is not an issue for us as we have faced similar opposition before. So I am really looking forward to these matches. I believe we are more experienced now, and we are not intimated by anybody anymore – but we worked hard to get here, and that’s what gives me confidence ahead of the tournament.”

Bafana Bafana will kickoff the tournament against powerhouses Ivory Coast on Monday, 24 June 2019. Namibia will follow four days later (Friday, 28 June) and they will round off the group stages with a fixture against Morocco on Monday, 1 July.



“I believe that is a good way to start the tournament with such strong opposition and we all know a positive start sets the tone for the competition. For long we have been looking for our identity and I believe with recent performances we have found that – but we cannot afford to relax because the intention is not just getting out of the group, but doing well in the entire tournament,” added the Bidvest Wits defender.

“I am excited because we have hungry players. They are also motivated, disciplined and most importantly, united. We may be from different clubs, but when we don the national team jersey we become one. To our advantage we have some youngsters but they have wealth of experience. Also, I really loved the welcome we got after we qualified, and we would like more of that – but we know the only way is if we do well in the tournament.”

Despite 40 appearances for Bafana Bafana, this will be Hlatshwayo’s second AFCON tournament. He played all six Egypt 2019 qualifiers as captain, and even scored against the Seychelles in the 6-0 victory in October last year.

Hlatshwayo was part of the squad that was in Equatorial Guinea under former Bafana Bafana head coach Ephraim Shakes Mashaba in 2015, and he says they learnt a lot.

“It was a great experience playing in my first tournament four years ago. We learnt a lot and I can’t wait for this one because these are the kind of games we live and long for. We are going there with a purpose, and it will be an honour for me to lead the team in this one – in Equatorial Guinea I got to wear the armband once, when we faced Algeria in the 2-2 draw,” said the man called Tyson by his peers.

“Every match will be key, we can’t target one or two teams points – we are aiming for three points in every match we play because you don’t want to get to the last match needing points and not in control of your destiny. Gunning for three points means you are able to determine your own future in the tournament, and that is what we are looking at.”

Hlatshwayo concluded by congratulating Mamelodi Sundowns for progressing through to the semifinals of the CAF Champions League, adding that it’s good news for Bafana Bafana.

“Sundowns is doing very well on the continent, and we must applaud their progression to the last four – that is a great achievement. More positively, however, is that the Bafana Bafana players in that squad are getting the much-needed experience, which will come in handy when we go to Egypt. I believe their presence will help the national team a lot because they are now battle-hardened with all their travels around the continent and that is crucial for a tournament like AFCON where all the big name players come to shine,” said Hlatshwayo.

Bafana Bafana will play all their group stage matches at the Al Salam Stadium in Cairo, Egypt. The tournament runs from 21 June to 19 July.