Baroka FC will step onto the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium pitch for the very first time in a Telkom Knockout Cup final on Saturday evening.
There is no greater motivation for a player than playing in a Cup final. This is perhaps the emotion that Baroka will be relying on as they attempt to upset the odds on the day.
With Orlando Pirates looking to end a four-year trophy drought, there could be no worse time than now for Baroka to do the unthinkable.
However, that certainly doesn’t mean that Pirates will walk away with the game.
After all, it was this same Baroka team that upset the likes of Mamelodi Sundowns and Bidvest Wits on their road to the final. The win over Sundowns is highly significant as Baroka are likely to come up against a similar opponent in Pirates.
This means that the lessons learnt against Sundowns may just be what is needed to overcome Pirates. One thing for sure is that Baroka are likely to resort to transition football. This has proven to be key on their road to the top, and considering their pace upfront it could be a viable option.
Ahead of the game, Baroka coach Wedson Nyirenda will surely focus on containing the attacking quartet of Augustine Mulenga, Justin Shonga, Thembinkosi Lorch and Vincent Pule.
These are players with an abundance of pace and skill, and Bakgaga may need to defend slightly deeper in order to avert the danger. But by defending deep doesn’t mean that the Limpopo-based outfit should sit back.
Rather Baroka need to take the fight to Pirates as this is when Bucs’ defence which has conceded just two goals on the way to the final look vulnerable.
In addition, there will be a burden of expectations that Pirates will have to deal with that could work in favour of Baroka.
Pirates have also won just one TKO final in the history of the competition, and looking at the previous successes of Ajax Cape Town and Platinum Stars, teams who were in a similar bracket as Baroka, could motivate them to work even harder.
Meanwhile, Baroka need to count on their talented players such as Talent Chawapiwa and Mduduzi Mdantsane among other to play a valuable role.
With Pirates’ quality on the field, Baroka will need to be wary and ensure that they don’t give them too much of the ball to play with, especially in dangerous areas.
Impressively is the fact that Nyirenda’s men have not conceded a single goal on their road to the final. This defensive solidity, considering their level of opposition, is worth taking note of and makes them a formidable outfit.
At the end of the day, games such as these are often decided on a moment of brilliance and should they defend valiantly, the possibility of them claiming their maiden crown cannot be underestimated.
Nonetheless, Baroka find themselves in an intriguing position. They are a side motivated by the possibility of winning their very first trophy, but at the same time they are seen as the underdogs.
But truthfully, there can be no underdogs when it comes to a final as both sides deserve to be there.