Bafana can make it to Brazil: Furman

6 March 2013

Before the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) kicked off, Bafana Bafana midfielder Dean Furman was an unfamiliar face to fans of the South African national team. By the time the side exited the tournament in a penalty shootout in the quarterfinals, he was one of the most popular players in the side.

At times, style is favoured over substance in South African football, but Furman, who plays his trade for Oldham Athletic, earned favour with the fans by bringing a typically uncompromising English approach to midfield play. His work rate impressed, as did his ability to win the ball in 50/50 clashes.

Captured the imagination

With Furman in the engine room, Bafana Bafana captured the public's imagination during Afcon, playing a bright, industrious style of football. He now appears to have a solid grip on the position of holding midfielder for South Africa.

Furman is confident that South Africa will qualify for the 2014 Brazil Fifa World Cup. He shared his thoughts with South African Football Association (Safa) media officer Matlhomola Morake about Afcon and the way forward for Bafana Bafana.

Matlhomola Morake (MM): Back in England, playing club football, how are things going?

Relegation battle

Dean Furman (DF): The (Football League One) relegation battle is hotting up. We have tough games during this period, very physical encounters and sadly we lost this past weekend, but we have to keep fighting.

The battle is on and I am hopeful we will survive relegation. The advantage is that we are playing teams that are around us, so it makes it a bit easier.

Should I be selected for the Central African Republic (CAR) clash, I will miss the away match to Shrewsbury to be played on the same day (23 March).

MM: Have you recovered from the rigours of the Afcon tournament?

'A lot of positives'

DF: Yes, I have recovered and have been playing regularly at my club. I only have great memories from the tournament and will take a lot of positives [from it] because the truth is we had a great tournament, so we must just build on that.

MM: How was the experience of playing in your first Afcon, especially on home soil?

DF: It was a proud moment for me playing in front of more than 50 000 fans at home wearing their Bafana Bafana jersey. It is something I never thought I would experience in my lifetime and I shall be forever grateful for the opportunity of representing my country on such a big stage.

It was also a proud moment for my family and the tournament is one of the things that will forever stand out in my career for a long time to come.

The people of Durban, where we played most of our matches, made this tournament a very memorable one for me and I would like to thank everyone for the memories.

MM: And the penalty miss in the match against Mali, do you still think about it?

Penalty kicks

DF: Yep, and that will probably stay with me for a very long time. The other day I found myself practicing penalty kicks again and thinking of what could have been ... "What if I hit it like this, or like that, or what if I had put it at this corner or that corner," but it's all in the past now and we have to learn from such experiences.

Credit should also go to the Mali keeper for making the brilliant save. Funny thing is that I was one of the better penalty takers during our practice sessions at Bafana Bafana. That is why I was so gutted.

I have to admit it was the worst way to exit a tournament when we were doing so well, but then again it's such things that make us stronger.

MM: We are now facing CAR in a 2014 Brazil World Cup qualifier, what's your take?

'A massive game'

DF: It is a massive game for us and for the country. Now that the Afcon tournament is behind us, our next challenge is to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil. That is the pinnacle of football, the world stage where every player wants to showcase their talent.

We hope the people of Cape Town and South Africa in general will come out in numbers to support us as they did during the Afcon. We also need to thank them again because it was through their backing that we were able to do well in the tournament.

MM: What should South Africa do to qualify for Brazil, starting with this match?

'Mindset'

DF: It's a fact that we had a great tournament, so we have to continue from where we left off. Our performances were good and if we return to action with that mindset there is no reason we should not do well and find ourselves top of the group. We need to take the confidence from that tournament into the qualifiers.

If you remember well, we started slowly against the Cape Verde Islands, were good against Angola, even better against Morocco and we dominated against Mali. That in itself shows we grew as the tournament progressed and it gives me confidence that we will do well.

MM: How should we approach the first game?

DF: We have some tough away qualifiers coming up in June (Ethiopia and CAR), so it is crucial that we win our home games, starting with CAR in about two weeks and Botswana in September. But also we should not be afraid to take our chances away because we have shown that we can win on the road as we did in Kenya last year.

We are now left with four matches and should treat every one of them as key to our aspirations of qualifying for Brazil 2014. But I have great confidence in this team that we will qualify for this tournament.

SAinfo reporter and South African Football Association

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Bafana Bafana celebrate a goal in their 2-0 win over Angola in a 2013 Orange Africa Cup of Nations clash played at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, 23 January 2013 (Photo: Confederation of African Football)

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