Bafana skipper impressed with youngsters

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“I truly believe that Ghana is going to be a really good experience for the talent we have. Perhaps they are young, but they are talented, and Carlos has shown belief in them,” he says.

Asked about the spirit in the team now that the contract issue, according to Safa, has been resolved, Mokoena replied: “We feel well. We have worked hard for the second day now and I am impressed at the attitude.”

_quoteMokoena admits he was surprised when he heard that Blackburn Rovers team-mate Benni McCarthy was not included in the squad for this month’s African Nations Cup.

“Benni’s one of the best strikers we have in the country and I was surprised,” Mokoena said of the omission of the second-top scorer in the Premiership last season. McCarthy was lured back from international exile by Parreira in September.

“But Carlos made it very clear that he knows what Benni can do, and that he wants to give these youngsters a chance. As you know we’re building for 2010. But really I was a bit surprised.”

Mokoena will be playing in his fourth Nations Cup, though he missed Bafana’s last finals campaign in Egypt after being unceremoniously axed by caretaker-coach Ted Dumitru.

The Bafana skipper says he hopes the team will improve on their performance two years ago, where an inexperienced side lost all three games and failed to score a goal.

“I don’t really know what went wrong at the previous Cup of Nations as I wasn’t there. I have played in three Nations Cups and I know how hard it is.”

The injury to right-back Vuyo Mere, who has been replaced by Bloemfontein Celtic’s Tumelo Nhlapo, has thrust the spotlight on Ajax Cape Town’s Bryce Moon.

Pietermaritzburg-bred Moon, an up-and-coming fringe national team player a few months ago who forced himself into the reckoning with some inspired performances for Ajax, will now go to Ghana as Bafana’s No 1 right-back.

“I didn’t say to myself I was going to be in the team but I did have expectations of making it,” Moon tells KickOff.com.

“The Nations Cup is an opportunity for me. I was given a chance before, and I took the chance and played well, and now at the Nations Cup I’m going to do my best.

“I left home at 12 years old to go to the School of Excellence and now all the hard work is paying off slowly. It’s my first tournament of this calibre and hopefully I am going to do well.”

Bafana play friendlies against Mozambique (January 12) and Botswana (January 16), before departing for Ghana on the 18th.