The biggest challenge Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane has is to manage expectations – both from soccer fans around the country and on the continent, and from Sundowns fans in particular ahead of their quarter-final clash against Kashima Antlers.
Mamelodi Sundowns are determined to make history.
Mosimane has dismissed talk of playing in the final, and made it clear that his target is to play in the semi-final and get at least position three, what he describes as being a realistic target. Anything beyond that, he says, will be a bonus.
Sundowns’ clash against the Japanese J League champions Antlers will give the Tshwane giants a feel as to how far they can go.
But the boys from Chloorkop are chomping at the bit. They want it and are determined to make a major impact on the biggest club football stage in the world.
Talk about facing Real Madrid in the final have raised expectations skyhigh. And with this, comes the pressure on the boys to deliver. And this is what the technical team has to overcome as they prepare to take on the Japanese outfit.
Antlers are no slouches. They have won the J1 League title eight times and have won six other cups and what is known as the Emperors Cup four times.
Not only that, they have some Brazilian players on their books and have certainly shown their pedigree in challenging for honours. Six of their players are regulars in the Japanese national squad. To crown it all, the Japanese are known for their industry – and the country has invested a huge amount in developing soccer.
The African Champions are, however, similarly endowed with talent. Most of Mosimane’s squad are regulars in their national teams – Liberia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Bafana Bafana. Some of them have played in the Olympics and have played against top players like Neymar. The Bafana Bafana regulars have played against some of the best Europe based African players who turn out for their counries.