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“We will win this game against the CAR,” Getaneh Kebede

Posted by Ethio Tribune on September 2, 2013

SOUTH Africa might as well kiss their 2014 Fifa World Cup chances goodbye, because Ethiopia will not lose to Central African Republic (CAR) in Brazzaville on Saturday, says Walia Antelopes and Bidvest Wits striker Getaneh Kebede.

But Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund believes that the CAR will give the Ethiopians a tougher game than expected, and that South Africa have a chance to sneak through to the final home-and-away knockout round with a win against Botswana in Durban.

The 21-year-old Kebede was top scorer, and player of the year, in the Ethiopian league last season, and now he is making waves in South African football.

He has scored two goals in two games since joining Wits in July, including a superb back-heel through the keeper’s legs in Sunday’s MTN8 semifinal first leg against Platinum Stars.

More crucially, his 43rd-minute equalising goal against Bafana in Addis Abeba in June put South Africa under pressure in a must-win game, leading to Bernard Parker’s own goal and a victory for the Walias that they believed put them through to the final round, sparking huge street celebrations.

A day later, it was announced on Fifa’s website that Ethiopia had fielded a suspended player in a qualifier.

The three points docked for that offence have given Bafana an outside chance to progress, though Kebede believes it has only prolonged South Africans’ agony at not reaching Brazil 2014.

“We will win this game against the CAR,” the striker said this week. “The game is at a neutral venue. If we were playing in Bangui, we would be worried. Ethiopians will travel to Brazzaville, while I doubt many will come from the CAR, so it could almost be a home game for us.”

Ethiopia’s home-based players – Kebede and prolific strike partner Salahdin Said play abroad – have had plenty of preparation for Saturday.

“The squad has spent one month training in camp,” Kebede said.

“There are only four overseas-based players, and all the home-based players have been part of the camp.”

Igesund believes he has selected one of his strongest squads to meet Botswana at Moses Mabhida Stadium, including former captain Bongani Khumalo and Ajax Amsterdam’s Thulani Serero.

But the coach cautions against overconfidence. The Zebras’ 1-1 draw against South Africa in Gaborone, and a 1-1 opening stalemate at home to Ethiopia, put Bafana on the back foot in Group A.

“Anything can happen in football, and there are no easy games, especially in World Cup qualifiers,” Igesund said.

“Our game against Botswana is going to be a hell of a game. If they win, and the other game’s a draw, they can also qualify.”

Igesund believes that the CAR will make things difficult for Ethiopia, despite being in last place and having nothing left to play for.

“I say this because when we played the CAR in Cameroon, it was tough. We won 3-0, but we had to play very well. We took our chances, but they also had three or four very good chances and it took some brilliant saves from Itumeleng Khune to keep us in the game. They caught us on a day when we played really well. I think the CAR are a proud nation and their players want to do well.”

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