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04 Sep 2007 12:09
Privileged to the end, the grand re-entry of Benni McCarthy into the Bafana Bafana squad for Sunday’s African Nations Cup qualifier against Zambia at Newlands Stadium will materialise on Wednesday—a day after the remaining South African players are due to be ensconced in their Cape Town camp.
McCarthy made an encouraging return to goal-scoring form on Sunday when he scored his first goal of the English Premiership season to help Blackburn Rovers beat Manchester City 1-0 at Ewood Park, and presumably he would have had no trouble boarding a flight on Monday night and arriving in Cape Town on Tuesday morning,
But Benni being Benni, his arrival will only materialise 24 hours later and, in the circumstances, it would not be surprising if an indulgent South African Football Association hire a brass band to greet him.
However, Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, who wasted no time in preceding the arrival of the bulk of his squad by arriving in Cape Town on Monday afternoon, will probably have no gripes over McCarthy’s 24-hour dispensation—as long as he sets sights on his prized striker after his 19-month absence from international duty, as arranged for Wednesday.
South Africa, however, are not alone in the desire to produce a trump card scorer in Sunday’s game, with feared former Kaizer Chiefs and Bursaspor (Turkey) striker Collins Mbesuma in harness to play for Zambia in what is theoretically a more vital game for them than it is for Bafana.
While Bafana are virtually certain to qualify for next year’s Nations Cup Finals in Ghana—avoiding a 3-0 defeat on Sunday or something likewise will make it a fait accompli—Zambia cannot afford anything less than achieving a victory to avoid the stark fate they experienced in 2004 when they failed to reach the finals in Tunisia.
So, while a victory by three goals or more against South Africa is viewed as the first prize for the Zambians as it would ensure them Nations Cup qualification, a win by any margin would, in all probability, be a soothing enough second prize as it would likely earn them a place in the Ghana tournament as one of the three best-placed runners-up from the qualifying groups.
Mbesuma, meanwhile, told Kick Off magazine prior to his departure from Turkey that the Zambian players do not view defeat as an option on Sunday.
“The game will be something in the nature of soccer crusade for Zambia,” added Mbesuma, “particularly after we lost the home tie against Bafana, with all the players fully aware what is required from them.
“And for my part,” said the player who was the scourge of Premier Soccer League defenders while playing for Chiefs, “South Africa is somewhere I have always viewed as a happy hunting ground.”—Sapa
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