It was almost with a measure of relief that Bafana Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira announced his ”strongest available” 22-man squad on Wednesday to tackle foxy world champions Italy in their Siena lair on October 17.
This time, of course, expectations of success for 73rd-ranked Bafana against the four-times world champions, who are currently ranked number one, will be low and the wily Parreira said he hoped his players would take advantage of this to play with freedom — ”and maybe give our much-vaunted opponents something to think about”.
However, the Azzurri cannot be considered invincible at this moment, having recently suffered a 3-1 defeat against a modest Hungarian combination.
In addition, Italy’s form since their tumultuous World Cup triumph in Germany last year has tended to be in the see-saw category, with impressive performances mixed with mediocrity.
With Sibusiso Zuma and Surprise Moriri conspicuous absentees through injury, Parreira has chosen a largely predictable squad with few surprises — proclaiming this was not an occasion for experiments.
For all this, some eyebrows were raised by the non-inclusion of Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder Dillon Sheppard, who can be considered a form player of late, while Cyril Nzama has lost his place in the Kaizer Chiefs’ line-up and several others have performed well below international level in the PSL.
Emphasising the importance of the occasion for Bafana is the fact that the squad will assemble at the ultra-modern Adidas training camp in Germany for several days before their showdown in Siena -Ã¢â‚¬’ with Parreira plumping not to play a second friendly international on October 13 as had earlier been mooted.
”We will need fresh legs to play the Italians,” he said, ”and fresh ideas. That is why I am concentrating on the game against the world champions”.
Italy, in contrast, have a crucial European Nations Cup clash against Georgia on the weekend before playing Bafana — and they might be tempted to rest some players.
Bafana, meanwhile, have mustered every player at their disposal, with a measure of relief that Benni McCarthy’s name is still listed after his 18-month self-imposed exile ended in the games against Zambia and Uruguay last month. – Sapa
Goalkeepers: Rowen Fernandez (Arminia Bielefeld, Germany), Calvin Marlin (Mamelodi Sundowns). Defenders: Aaron Mokoena (Blackburn Rovers, England), Bradley Carnell (Karlsruher, Germany), Nasief Morris (Panathinaikos, Greece), Cyril Nzama (Kaizer Chiefs), Vuyo Mere (Mamelodi Sundowns), Bevan Fransman (Moroka Swallows), Brett Evans (Ajax Cape Town). Midfielders: Benson Mhlongo (Mamelodi Sundowns), MacBeth Sibaya (Rubin Kazan, Russia), Kagisho Dikgacoi (Golden Arrows), Steven Pienaar (Everton, England), Siphiwe Tshabalala (Kaizer Chiefs), Bamuza Sono (Jomo Sono), Lance Davids (Djurgardens IF), Siyabonga Nkosi (Arminia Bielefeld, Germany), Teko Modise (Orlando Pirates), Delron Buckley
(Borussia Dortmund, Germany). Strikers: Siyabonga Nomvete (Aarlborg BK, Denmark), Benedict McCarthy (Blackburn Rovers, England), Thembinkosi Fanteni (Ajax Cape Town).