Bafana trio set to shine in Cup clash

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Sundowns’ forward Surprise Moriri scored against Paraguay, provided the cross for Benni McCarthy to head in the team’s second and was adjudged Man-of-the Match.

Chiefs had two players who were prominent in Bafana’s superb team effort. Siphiwe Tshabalala, after a disappointing African Nations Cup in January, played his best game in a South Africa jersey in some time, capping the performance with a stunning chip to beat goalkeeper Justo Villar from 25 metres.

But it is Chiefs’ keeper Itumeleng Khune who will look back at the Paraguay game as a breakthrough match in his career.

Earning just his second cap after making his debut for a third-string side in the low-key friendly against Zimbabwe, 20-year-old Khune pulled off some trademark saves and looked every bit the part of an international goalkeeper.

For Khune – who slept in a train station when he first joined the Chiefs youth programme and started out as a ball-boy, being spotted catching balls hit behind the nets at training – 2007/08 has been a very big season.

After breaking into the Chiefs first team at the beginning of the season thanks to Rowen Fernandez’s departure to Arminia Bielefeld and an injury to Emille Baron, the youngster from the Tshing Township in Ventersdorp has not looked back.

Khune was the Player-of-the-Tournament and Goalkeeper-of-the-Tournament in the Telkom Knockout after his penalty shootout heroics in the final against Sundowns on December 1.

In January, Khune went to the Nations Cup as the third choice to Fernandez and Moeneeb Josephs, though the injury to the former saw the Chiefs’ man sit on the bench.

While Khune will be pleased at his international breakthrough, Moriri, too will take some satisfaction at his starring role against Paraguay.

The Sundowns forward’s inclusion has at times been criticised. But even when not at his best after recovering from an injury late last year Moriri was establishing himself as a key component of coach Carlos Alberto Parreira's plans as the link-man between the midfield and the lone striker.

Tomorrow’s clash will be the second meeting between Sundowns and Chiefs at King's Park this season, having played to a highly tactical, if somewhat cautious and dull 0-0 league draw there in November. That match served as a precursor to the more exciting Telkom Cup final, which also ended goalless before Amakhosi won 3-2 on penalties.

Both sides have plenty to play for having disappointed in the Premier Soccer League. Defending PSL champions Downs are languishing in 11th place and the Nedbank Cup is their last chance at some silverware.

Chiefs are in ninth in the league, though, with their form having picked up with three league and cup wins in succession, will hope for a strong finish both in the PSL and by perhaps picking up a second cup trophy.

Crucially for Amakhosi, star defensive midfielder Tinashe Nengomasha, left-back Onismor Bhasera and playmaker Gerald Sibeko were all given the go-ahead in fitness tests at Thursday's training session.

For Sundowns, defender Michael Manzini and midfielder Jorge Acuna are hopeful of recovering from injuries.

With Downs having also shown signs of form in their 3-0 league victory over Black Leopards, and cup meetings between the two teams traditionally epically-fought, an entertaining game in front of a sold-out crowd is expected.

In the pick of today's matches Free State Stars play the slayers of provincial PSL counterparts Bloemfontein Celtic in the previous round, First Division side Ikapa Sporting. Black Leoapards are up against Vodacom League team Mamatiel Professionals.

AmaZulu will be pleased that their match against tough Vodacom outfit Vasco Da Gama has been switched from the Cape, where there were no suitable available venues, to Chatsworth Stadium. Tomorrow Nathi Lions take on Jomo Cosmos in Orkney.

Nedbank Cup last-16 Today: Free State Stars v Ikapa Sporting (Welkom Rugby Stadium, 3 pm – live on SuperSport 4), Black Leopards v Matatiel Professionals (Thohoyandou, 3 pm – live SABC 1), Vasco da Gama v AmaZulu (Chatsworth Stadium, 8 pm – live on SABC1) Tomorrow: Jomo Cosmos v Nathi Lions (Orkney Stadium, 3 pm – live on SABC1), Kaizer Chiefs v Mamelodi Sundowns (King's Park, 5 pm – live on SABC1 and SuperSport 4) Wednesday: FC Cape Town v Winners Park (Blue Downs Stadium, 7.30 pm – live on SABC1), Mpumalanga Black Aces v FC AK (Atlantic Stadium, 7.30 pm – live on SuperSport 3)

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