By Tadious Manyepo
Mashall Munetsi has been hogging the headlines all week for his impressive show in containing Lionel Messi in a French Ligue 1 match on Sunday.
The heroics were for his club, Stade de Reims, who lost that contest 0-2, with most of the focus on the Argentine superstar’s debut, for Paris Saint-Germain.
The Warriors star was roundly praised for the way he held his own after being handed the responsibility to shadow Messi after the six-time Ballon d’Or winner was introduced in the 66th minute.
Now, Munetsi, who is set to play for the Warriors for the first time under coach Zdravko Logarusic, must try and play at such a high level for his country.
The Warriors take on Bafana Bafana in their opening 2022 World Cup qualifier at the National Sports Stadium tomorrow. The match gets underway at 3pm.
“It’s a blessing to be called in and play for my country,’’ he told The Herald. ‘’It’s unfortunate that I have been away and was not able to show up, for previous matches.
“It’s important to start on a good note. This is South Africa and it is a massive game for us, it’s a derby.
“We need to win, we need to start on a good note. I haven’t worked under coach Loga before, but I am looking forward to it and I hope we will manage to utilise the home advantage.”
Munetsi said this crop of players should live up to expectations and help the country qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“We have been together for a while as a team, and we now understand each other very much,’’ he said.
“It is important for this generation to do its best and achieve what hasn’t been achieved by the country previously.
“It is good that we have some players who are playing in the top leagues, unfortunately, some of our guys couldn’t make it.
“It is important that we take it from here, we have to do our best and try to qualify.”
Munetsi and his France-based counterpart, Tino Kadewere, requested to be interviewed simultaneously.
They hugged and shared jokes, during their chat with the media in a show of the brotherhood which they have always exhibited even when they are miles away from home in the French League 1.
Kadewere turns out for Olympique Lyon and after spending the off-season nursing an injury, new coach Peter Bosz has been carefully managing his return to the first team.
“We need to represent our own country, as players and, looking at this game that we have on Friday (tomorrow), it is a big game, not just for us as players, but as a country,’’ he said.
“South Africa are our neighbours and we have to do all we can to win this game.
“We have to make sure that we prepare very well, for the game, and we should try to get the maximum points.
“This is the first game of the qualification so, always, when you get a victory in the first game, it can boost your confidence, and we are looking forward to this game, hoping for the best.”
The 25-year-old Kadewere revealed fans have inundated his inbox with messages pleading with the striker to make them proud in the battle against Bafana Bafana.
“It is sad that we are playing without our fans,’’ he said. “It is always good for us to play before a full National Sports Stadium.
“But in this case, it’s not going to be like that but we know everyone will be following on television, and other available platforms.
“We will have to make sure that we make them proud.
“We have to make the nation happy and, by making them happy, we have to win against South Africa.
“Since I arrived in the country, I have been getting a lot of messages from the fans who are saying, ‘Please beat South Africa for us.’
“So, we have to do our best to make sure that we get a victory against South Africa.’’
He doesn’t expect an easy match against Bafana Bafana who are on a rebuilding exercise under the guidance of new coach, Hugo Broos.
Kadewere would have wanted a scenario where they went into this match at full strength with all their players available for national duty.
“It’s always difficult that, all the time, there are always one or two guys missing from the squad,’’ he said.
“We just have to make sure that it doesn’t affect our heads.
“Of course, we need all our players to be there and being able to play together but I know wherever they are, they are with us, and we know we need to win for them.
“We have to make sure that it doesn’t affect us, we have to do our very best to make them proud, as well.’’
Kadewere scored for the Warriors in their 2021 AFCON qualifier, against the Desert Foxes of Algeria, and another goal, or goals, tomorrow, could be a huge boost for the national team. The Herald