South Africa coach Stuart Baxter has named an exciting preliminary squad of players for the 2018 COSAFA Cup, which includes several overseas-based players. The squad of 34 will be trimmed down to the required 20 by May 20, the deadline for nations to submit their squads for the regional showpiece competition.
Headlining the South Africa squad is France-based striker Lebo Mothiba, who plays at Lille, while Phakamani Mahlambi (Al Ahly, Egypt), Gift Links (Alassiouty, Egypt) and (Sporting Braga, Portugal) have also been included on the preliminary list.
Singh was a star of the 2016 COSAFA Under-20 Championships, where he finished top-scorer with five goals, while Orlando Pirates forward Lyle Foster, who played in the regional Under-20 Championship last year, has also been included.
The squad is a mixture of young players and experienced stars, such as Maritzburg United defender Siyanda Xulu, BidVest Wits midfielder Vincent Pule and Baroka FC forward Gift Motupa, who have been rewarded for good form.
Motupa was in the South African side that lifted the 2016 COSAFA Cup, scoring twice in the final against Botswana.Baxter has said previously that he wants to use the competition to give exposure to new players at international level and expand his pool of players for the World Cup and African Nations Cup qualifiers.
South Africa will meet the winner of Group A in the quarterfinals on June 2, a pool that includes Madagascar, Mozambique, Comoros and Seychelles.
“The draw has given us a lot of exciting games to look forward to and I’m sure the organisers are smacking their lips at the prospect of the games,” Baxter said.
“In terms of the matches, one thing that makes it very exciting is that this is not a [FIFA] calendar date where we can be guaranteed all our players, so it throws up a lot of very interesting scenarios.
“We took what was supposed to be an under-strength team to the last COSAFA tournament and yet six of those players went on to secure contracts in the PSL [Premier Soccer League] and today are leading players in the league.
“One of the exciting things for South Africa is that while we may not get all the players we want, we certainly will have a team that we want and a team that we hope can represent South Africa with pride.
“I think it’s been more challenging in the previous years because we didn’t really have a clear position on what we want from the tournament. So many times we stumbled into the tournament with an under-strength team investing time in players that won’t probably represent Bafana again,” Baxter added.
“Now the strategy should be clear, we will pick the strongest possible team. At the same time investing time in younger players who we feel will go on to play in the Olympics and maybe Bafana Bafana.
“Therefore, we have a clear picture of what we want now, so I think it makes it less challenging. I hope we will serve South Africa and SAFA in their vision of moving forward and I hope the co-operation with out clubs will lead to us securing a team that we can be very hopeful with.
“Looking at the opponents, there will be tough games to look forward to and I hope we can embellish the tournament and give South Africans, whether they watch on television or live, something special to talk about.”
South Africa preliminary squad:
Goalkeepers:Bruce Bvuma (Kaizer Chiefs), Reyaad Pieterse (SuperSport United), Brandon Petersen (Ajax Cape Town)
Defenders:Reeve Frosler (BidVest Wits), Grant Kekana (SuperSport United), Siyabonga Ngezana (Kaizer Chiefs), Motjeka Madisha (Mamelodi Sundowns), Siyanda Xulu (Maritzburg United), Taariq Fielies (Cape Town City), Innocent Maela (Orlando Pirates), Musa Lebusa (Ajax Cape Town), Sibusiso Mabiliso (AmaZulu), Paseka Mako (Chippa United), Mothobi Mvala (Highlands Park)
Midfielders:Wiseman Meyiwa (Kaizer Chiefs), Siphesihle Ndlovu (Maritzburg United), Fortune Makaringe (Maritzburg United), Teboho Mokoena (SuperSport United), Goodman Mosele (Baroka FC), Aubrey Modiba (SuperSport United), Jamie Webber (SuperSport United), Thembinkosi Lorch (Orlando Pirates), Lebohang Maboe (Maritzburg United), Grant Margeman (Ajax Cape Town), Siphelele Ntshangase (Kaizer Chiefs), Abednego Mosiatlhaga (BidVest Wits), Gift Links (Alassiouty Sport, Egypt), Phakamani Mahlambi (Al Ahly, Egypt), Vincent Pule (BidVest Wits)
Forwards:Gift Motupa (Baroka FC), Lyle Foster (Orlando Pirates), Ryan Moon (Kaizer Chiefs), Luther Singh (Sporting Braga, Portugal), Lebo Mothiba (Lille, France)