Furman ready to rub shoulders with Premier League stars at Africa Cup of Nations

Dean Furman says South Africa go into the Africa Cup of Nations in high spirits ahead of Monday’s opener against the Ivory Coast.


Furman, 30, will be competing in the tournament for the third time and he believes Stuart Baxter’s 23-man squad is equipped to go far in Egypt, in an event that runs from June 21 to July 19.

Preparations have been going well, according to Furman, who played the first half of a behind-closed-doors friendly against Ghana at the Dubai Police Academy in a match played in oppressive heat earlier this week.

“We had a strong qualifying campaign where we went undefeated with wins away in Nigeria and a victory to clinch qualification away to Libya being the stand-out performances,” declared Furman. “On the back of this, we are going into the tournament in confident mood. Our opener against Ivory Coast will be very tough and we are preparing hard for the game.”

South Africa, whose squad features only two players competing in the top five European leagues, will play all three group games at Al Salam Stadium. After taking on the Ivory Coast, they will meet Morocco four days later followed by Namibia in their final pool match on July 1.

Reflecting on a mixed campaign for the SuperSport United in the South African Premier League, Furman said: “The domestic season was an up and down one due to injury. Unfortunately I dislocated my shoulder and missed a third of the season. We finished in sixth place and lost in the final of one of the domestic cup competitions on penalties.”

The midfielder believes much hinges on the result against an Ivory Coast team featuring Premier League stars Serge Aurier, Wilfried Zaha, plus Jonathan Kodjia and the highly-rated Nicolas Pepe of Lille. But he declared there will be no easy games. “All three teams in our group pose a threat. Ivory Coast and Morocco are top teams in African football, with a host of star names throughout their teams,” said Furman.

“Namibia have a number of players from the South African League so we know they have quality as well. We are excited to test ourselves against the best.

“Of course, our first result against Ivory Coast will impact on how we approach our remaining group games. It is very important for us to get points on the board as soon as possible and put ourselves in a strong position in the group.”

Furman, who grew up in Edgware and played at Chelsea’s youth academy before moving on to Rangers, Bradford City, Oldham Athletic and Doncaster Rovers, hopes South Africa can be one of the surprise packages in the competition. “We are not putting any added pressure on ourselves by putting a target on how far we think we can go,” he said.

“We have a lot of belief in this group that we can have a strong tournament. First we have to concentrate on progressing from the group stage and from then on it’s a knockout competition where anything is possible for us.

“As a team our strengths are our speed and our quick combination play. When the team plays in full flow we are very hard to stop. We hope we will be able to show that on the big stage.”

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