Phiri urges Bafana mental fortitude

Phiri was called into the Bafana squad as a replacement for the injured Kamohelo Mokotjo, as they prepare to take on the Super Eagles in their opening 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Uyo on Saturday (18h00 SA time).

Although being called up after the initial squad announcement, Phiri, who recently joined Ligue 1 side Guingamp ahead of the 2017/18 season, arrived in camp on time and enjoyed all four training sessions prior to the team's departure on Wednesday afternoon. 

The 22-year-old former Bidvest Wits junior believes the squad has the right ingredients to make the country proud on their journey under a new technical team, and feels a good mentality will be crucial in the game against Nigieria.

"I am confident, especially about all the players who have been picked. We have been doing very well as a team; we have a new technical staff with different players as well; we just need to find a common goal as to what we want to achieve, and if we have the same goal we stand a very good chance to succeed," Phiri told SAFA Media.

"Of course, they are a tough opposition especially in Nigeria, but with the confidence the players have in this squad, and the experience that we have, we should utilise every opportunity that we have going into the game and express ourselves – that’s the most important thing to do.

"It’s going to be a very tough game and a tough trip as well, but it’s all mental and if we get that one right then everybody will be prepared to play the game and bring out the best performance ever."

With Bafana's record against the Super Eagles not showing much promise of a favourable result away from home, Phiri emphasises the need to start the qualifying campaign on a high regardless of the opposition, with teamwork needed to overshadow some of the European stars in their opponents' camp.

"I always say football is the same and right now it’s different players, different eras – we just need to stay focused on the ultimate goal, which is qualification," he added.

"We need not take it as an event but take it as a normal game with the pressures and responsibilities that it will come with. We have to work hard to ensure we get these qualification campaigns off to a perfect start.

"They have big guns in Ahmed Musa, Victor Moses [injured] and all these good players who are solid but we also have great players. Therefore we have to work as a team because victory will not just pitch up, we have to work for it regardless of who is on the pitch.

"We have to fight for our country, the badge and come out tops. We have to show passion and if we don’t make it with all three points let’s hold our heads high for we would have given a great performance."