Namhla Mphelo: Congratulations on the win coach, what’s your take on the match?
Ephraim Shakes Mashaba: Lesotho is a very good team, they have improved immensely over the years. We always knew that the quarterfinal match was going to be tough, and it is precisely what we got. They came at us from the word go.
EM: We could have won that match by 4 or 5 goals in the first half, but we have a very big problem in South African football. It is a difficult one for us at national teams because I believe it is the clubs who can rectify this problem. We only get to spend a week with players and have many areas of the game to work through, so clubs have more time with players to fix this goal scoring problem. We really need to find a strategy to get our players to be clinical in front of goal.
NM: That goal by Lesotho’s Thaba-Ntso in the 19th minute of the match must have given you a fright?
EM: The boy is something special and we have been watching him from the beginning of the tournament. He made a great run and the flick was just pure genius, I call that type of goal a “no chance”. We managed to absorb the pressure they put on us. I believe in my boys so I knew that the goal would not kill their spirit. We just needed to take advantage of the many chances we got and we did.
NM: At halftime you made two substitutions when you brought in Deolin Mekoa and Menzi Masuku, what was the plan?
EM: The plan was very simple, we had to play more balls behind the Lesotho defensive line, you saw for yourself that Masuku and Mekoa changed the complexion of the match. When they came on they made our midfield to be more compact. We controlled the tempo of the match and after Kutumela came on, Motupa finally managed to convert the goal.
EM: The boy made two saves which were very important to us. So I believe he is highly motivated going into the semi final. Penalties are all about who has better luck on the day, and I suppose we were the luckier of the two teams. After Pieterse saved the 4th penalty Mekoa knew that it was up to him to push the team through to the semi finals. It is also unfortunate for the hosts that luck was not on their side in the Nambia vs Botswana match, which they lost.
NM: What are some of the positives and negatives you picked up during the match?
EM: A big positive is that when we are in possession we dominate play. Our players are just so talented that a coach never has to worry. But once we loss the possession we take time to regroup and cover critical areas of the pitch. I have already spoken about the finishing which is a pro and con, because we really know how to create chances but lack the final touch, this is something that has to be addressed by the whole football fraternity.
NM: Do you think you might encounter a problem of fatigue in the squad, knowing that the PSL season ended a few weeks ago and many of these players probably played more than 70 percent of their club games?
EM: Fatigue is a part of life, but these are footballers, their job is to play. I am not concerned about that because you need to remember that this team is on a bigger mission which is the 2016 Olympics, so we have an incredible medical team, who make sure that we do not over work the players. They are conditioned properly and follow a strict diet so I hope we will not have any issues.
Bafana Bafana’s next assignment will be a semi-final clash on Wednesday, 22 June at the Sam Nujoma Stadium in Windhoek.
They will face the winner between Swaziland and Zambia.