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17.06.2005 Sports News

Revenge Against Stars Will Be Bafana's Driving Force

Business Day

(Johannesburg)--REVENGE will be on Bafana Bafana's minds when they take the field to face rivals Ghana in what should be an enthralling 2006 World Cup qualifier at Soccer City tomorrow afternoon.

The bitter rivalry between the two nations was solidly established during the corresponding qualifier last June in Kumasi when, according to Bafana winger Delron Buckley, the Ghanaians employed intimidation tactics on their way to beating the national soccer team 3-0.

"All the guys in the camp have not forgotten the poor treatment we received in Ghana. We will definitely be after revenge," said a still upset Buckley.

"They tried to unsettle us all from the moment we landed. We still have that experience etched in our minds."

Buckley said Bafana were deliberately given the worst training facilities in Kumasi, among other things, and the only way to exorcise the memories of that trip was to punish Ghana's Black Stars on the pitch.

Normally diplomatic Bafana captain Aaron Mokoena was uncharacteristically outspoken, describing tomorrow's encounter as payback time.

"They chose to play the (away) game on a very poor Kumasi Sports stadium pitch when they could have easily taken a match of that magnitude to Accra," Mokoena said. "It is time to turn the tables on them because we are playing at home this time."

The Blackburn Rovers defender appealed to the nation's soccer lovers to descend on Soccer City in great numbers as a huge crowd would intimidate the visitors.

Coach Stuart Baxter echoed his players when he said the Black Stars should be made to feel as uncomfortable as possible.

"They should not be allowed to come here and have a pleasant afternoon in SA," he said.

"So I hope the importance of this game will bring people out to Soccer City in large numbers."

A lot will be at stake tomorrow as Bafana will be determined to preserve their three-point lead at the top of the six-nation qualifying group, while the Black Stars will be desperate to either draw or beat their hosts if they are to keep up with the pace.

Only two games will remain in the race to qualify for a place in the world cup after this weekend's round of qualifiers and Ghana will be mindful of the fact that they are running out of time.

They are expected to bring an array of stars, including Chelsea target Michael Essien and Juventus midfield Stephen Appiah.

But Mokoena said the big names in the Black Stars' line-up did not bother him and he intended to celebrate his 50th Bafana cap with victory.

Mokoena's fairytale rise up the ranks began last July when then captain Mbulelo Mabizela was stripped of the captaincy after arriving late to a camp ahead of Bafana's home qualifier against Burkina Faso.

Real Madrid superstars Ronaldo and Luis Figo were expected to visit Bafana's camp last night while on holiday here, and to promote a new A1 Grand Prix series.

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