local soccer 5.9.2013 05:33 pm

CAR out to surprise

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - MARCH 23, Kagisho Dikgacoi of South Africa and Josue Balamandji of Central African Republic during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier match between South Africa and Central African Republic at Cape Town Stadium on March 23, 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa.Photo by Ashley Vlotman / Gallo Images

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - MARCH 23, Kagisho Dikgacoi of South Africa and Josue Balamandji of Central African Republic during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier match between South Africa and Central African Republic at Cape Town Stadium on March 23, 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa.Photo by Ashley Vlotman / Gallo Images

The focus of Saturday’s World Cup qualifiers will be whether Ethiopia, Bafana Bafana or Botswana finish top of Group A to advance to the next stage of qualification, but it could be Central African Republic (CAR) with the final say.

CAR are out of the running for qualification, but come up against Ethiopia, placed first in the group on 10 points, in neutral Brazzaville. Bafana are on eight points and play Botswana (seven points) in Durban. The three teams will be desperate to earn their side a place in Africa’s last 10 segment, from which five countries will qualify for the World Cup tournament.

Should Ethiopia beat CAR, any hopes of Bafana making the trip to Brazil will end, irrespective of the result of the game against Botswana. CAR coach Herve Loungoundji said his side would go all out to beat Ethiopia. “Ethiopia are making a big mistake if they believe we will lie down tamely and give them an easy ride into the final World Cup qualifying stage,” he said.

“We have been dogged by bad luck in this qualification tournament. “We have suffered from the political crisis and unrest in the country and been forced to play home games in a foreign country.

“While, unlike the other group teams, Ethiopia, South Africa and Botswana, we are now out of the running for a place in the World Cup, we badly want a victory in this last match to ease the pain for our supporters back home.” Ethiopia have called up Wits striker Getaneh Kebede to aid them in their qualification plight.

Kebede, who recently made a striking debut for Wits in the Premier Soccer League, was called up by Ethiopia on Thursday. Wits coach Gavin Hunt has been raving about Kebede since he arrived in South Africa, and the talented player is being touted by Ethiopian officials as their trump card in the decisive game against CAR.

The lithe, industrious forward has scored seven goals in his 11 international appearances and is one of four players from outside Ethiopia who have been called up to bolster their squad. The other three are Salahdin Seid (from Belgium), Shimeles Bekele (Libya) and Asrat Megersa (Israel).

The Ethiopians believe that victory against CAR would be a deserved confirmation of the group qualifying triumph which was seemingly assured, until they were penalised three points by Fifa for fielding an illegible player in the 3-2 win over Botswana.

Sapa

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