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Xulu – Not Ideal To Play WC Qualifiers Ahead Of AFCON

Bafana Bafana defender Siyanda Xulu said playing competitive games before the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Ivory Coast next year is not an ideal preparation.

CAF, instead of contesting that those nations who have qualified for the AFCON should be excused to play friendly matches, agreed with FIFA to start the 2026 World Cup qualifiers crucially in this month, unlike last year’s nations who qualified for the World Cup in Qatar.

The five nations, who qualified for the World Cup last year, were exempted from their AFCON qualifiers to give them sufficient time to prepare for the FIFA tournament.

But this year, with the AFCON only a few months away, nations that qualified for the tournament are playing World Cup qualifiers, which are games of consequences, and the time to play friendly matches were over.

“It doesn’t help,” Xulu told iDiski Times.

However, Xulu, who was in defence as Bafana beat 2-1 Benin in the FIFA World Cup qualifying match at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday to go top of Group C, said they were aware of this situation.    

“But it is one thing that we were very aware of as a team,” he revealed.

“That is why we managed to have so many friendlies before these World Cup qualifiers so that we see where we are as a team, so we try and test different combinations, which is something that worked well – good and bad because we didn’t get the results.   

“The results we thought they were going to be easy to just accumulate for example the game against Eswatini, the game against Namibia, which is something that we had to get tested as a team.

“Now it is money time, they are no friendly games.”

Bafana visit Rwanda in their second World Cup qualifying match at Huye Stadium in Butare on Tuesday, looking to tighten their top spot by making it two wins out of two matches.  

“We must make sure that we accumulate as many points as we can as a country because we know the difficulty of going away to get some points. The most important games are home games,” added Xulu.

“Even the coach mentioned in the press conference that now it doesn’t matter, we must collect points.”  

Bafana and SAFA, after the World Cup qualifiers, are working on playing warm-up matches in January, likely to be outside the country on their way to Ivory Coast to test other combinations before the tournament starts.           

Robin-Duke Madlala
Robin-Duke Madlala
Robin-Duke Madlala is iDiski Times' former KwaZulu-Natal-based web journalist. Boasting extensive experience in the South African football landscape, Robin-Duke has previously worked for Kick-Off Magazine, Soccer Laduma, and Daily Sun and Sunday Sun. He specialises in breaking news and transfers around South Africa’s big clubs in KZN. Robin-Duke has left iDiski Times.