Soccer

Khumalo to captain South Africa at Cup of Nations

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JOHANNESBURG (AP)

Former Tottenham defender Bongani Khumalo was confirmed as South Africa's captain on Sunday for its hosting of the upcoming African Cup of Nations, but there was no place for veteran forward Benni McCarthy in coach Gordon Igesund's final 23-man squad.

The Greece-based Khumalo will lead the home team in next month's tournament and will take on the role of permanent skipper following former captain and Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar's retirement from international football.

McCarthy's Bafana Bafana career is now unlikely to be revived under Igesund. The 35-year-old striker left a training session this month because of a hamstring injury and wasn't fit to be considered for what is surely the last international tournament he had a chance of winning selection.

First-choice forward Katlego Mphela, Bernard Parker, Lehlohonolo Majoro and Tokelo Rantie of Swedish club Malmo were the four strikers picked by Igesund. Midfielders Kagisho Dikgacoi of Crystal Palace, Thulani Serero of Ajax and Dean Furman of Oldham also made the squad alongside Racing Genk defender Anele Ngcongca.

The majority of players hoping to give South Africa its first major title since winning the African Cup at home in 1996 were locally based, with 11 from South Africa's two big Soweto teams, Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs, including winger Siphiwe Tshabalala.

Igesund has the challenge of lifting a South Africa team that has a diminished reputation on its home continent after it failed to qualify for the last two African Cup tournaments. The 2010 World Cup host hasn't made the last eight of the African Cup since 2002.

Igesund has regularly underlined the difficulty of the task that lies ahead for the host nation, which faces Cape Verde, Angola and Morocco in its group and will open the continental championship on Jan. 19 against debutant Cape Verde.

''We are now embarking on a long and difficult mission and we cannot do it alone, your support will be very crucial to see us through,'' Igesund said on Sunday, appealing to South African fans to revive the support they showed for the home team at the World Cup in 2010.

''Now that the final squad has been selected, the focus is now on the tournament. Real and hard work begins for all of us.''

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Squad:

Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs), Wayne Sandilands (Mamelodi Sundowns), Senzo Meyiwa (Orlando Pirates).

Defenders: Bongani Khumalo (PAOK), Siyabonga Sangweni (Orlando Pirates), Thabo Nthethe (Bloemfontein Celtic), Anele Ngcongca (Racing Genk), Siboniso Gaxa (Kaizer Chiefs), Tshepo Masilela (Kaizer Chiefs), Thabo Matlaba (Orlando Pirates).

Midfielders: Kagisho Dikgacoi (Crystal Palace), Dean Furman (Oldham), Reneilwe Letsholonyane (Kaizer Chiefs), Oupa Manyisa (Orlando Pirates), May Mahlangu (Helsingborg), Thulani Serero (Ajax), Lerato Chabangu (Moroka Swallows), Thuso Phala (Platinum Stars), Siphiwe Tshabalala (Kaizer Chiefs).

Strikers: Bernard Parker (Kaizer Chiefs), Katlego Mphela (Mamelodi Sundowns), Tokelo Rantie (Malmo), Lehlohonolo Majoro (Kaizer Chiefs).



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