South African president Jacob Zuma says he is confident the hosts can defy their critics and win the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.
Bafana Bafana are ranked 23rd in Africa – 87th overall in the Fifa world rankings – and have been given little chance of success by many.
They have also failed to qualify for the last two Nations Cup tournamennt.
“We should be there at the final and we should take it. And they will take it. We should have no problem, said the South African president Jacob Zuma.
Mr Zuma, however, hit out at the team’s critics and declared “they will take it” on home soil.
The last time the South Africans hosted the tournament, in 1996, they lifted the trophy – their only continental triumph to date.
“There are too many critics in this country,” Mr Zuma said, after meeting the team at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Tuesday.
“I was telling the team that [those] who are critics have never touched a football. They don’t know how it feels.
“We are satisfied that the team is well prepared for the tournament. They must relax, they must not be tense, they must not listen to all these critics. They must just stick to what they have been preparing to do and they will do it.
“I’m more confident this time than any other time that we will show people what we are made of as South Africans.
“I said to the team ‘I want to touch the cup’, and touching it means we should be there at the final and we should take it. And they will take it. We should have no problem.”
The 2010 World Cup hosts have warmed up for the Nations Cup with a 1-0 defeat to Norway and a 0-0 draw with Algeria.
They open their Group A campaign against Cape Verde at Soccer City in Johannesburg on 19 January, before facing Angola and Morocco.
Mr Zuma also defended the country’s preparations for the tournament, which saw delays in the naming of venues andfinancing problems in the build-up to the showpiece event.
“I think we have done our best,” he said.
“Bear in mind that this tournament was supposed to be in Libya [the tournament was moved due to conflict in the northern African country].
“We had to start very late as a result of that.
“Fortunately we have the facilities, which are a key factor. We might not have done everything, precisely because of the timing. With all of that, I think we are more than ready.”
South Africa are using five 2010 World Cup stadiums – FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, Moses Mabhida in Durban, Mbombela in Nelspruit, Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth and Royal Bafokeng in Rustenburg – for the finals.