/ 26 January 2008

No place for hero Van Heerden

There is unlikely to be a place in the starting line-up for South Africa hero Elrio van Heerden when they tackle Tunisia in the Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday.

Van Heerden, who plays for Belgian club Bruges, came off the bench three days ago to score one of the best goals in the biennial tournament and salvage a draw against Angola.

Pouncing on a pass from midfielder Teko Modise, he brushed off a challenge before unleasing a 30m thunderbolt that flew over the Angolan goalkeeper into the net.

Suddenly, Van the forgotten man was labelled ”Vantastic” by South Africans as they celebrated snatching a point they deserved for continuous pressure, but appeared destined not to get.

Van Heerden has been no more than a bit player on the international stage since Brazilian World Cup-winning coach Carlos Alberto Parreira took charge of 2010 World Cup hosts Bafana Bafana.

Starting places were rare last year and introductions from the bench just as infrequent for the slightly built midfielder who has not managed even one goal for his club this season.

Parreira hinted at three changes in personnel and a bolder system as he seeks maximum points and an end to Group D deadlocks after Senegal and Tunisia shared four goals in the other opening-round encounter in this northern town.

Goalkeeper Rowen Fernandez looks set to return in place of Moeneeb Josephs after being ruled out of the 1-1 stalemate with shock 2006 World Cup qualifiers Angola because of a hand injury sustained in a warm-up win over Mozambique.

And midfielders Surprise Moriri and Siphiwe Tshabalala are also facing the axe with their places going to Lerato Chabangu and Thembinkosi ”Terror” Fanteni, both of whom came on at half-time against Angola.

The likely inclusion of Fanteni to partner veteran Sibusiso Zuma up front is significant as it would mean a change of tactical heart by Parreira, long criticised by the media for his lone-striker approach.

While tactics were engrossing Parreira, who guided his homeland to 1994 World Cup glory in the United States, opposite number Roger Lemerre was clashing with the media again.

He stormed out of a post-match press conference on Wednesday after being angered by Senegalese representatives and confiscated the tripod from a Tunisian television crew two days later.

Lemerre, the only coach to win the European Championship and African Nations Cup having masterminded the triumphs of France in 2000 and Tunisia four years later, has been under constant media pressure.

Disappointing warm-up results and a rotation policy that produced virtually a new side for each fixture angered Tunisians, who booed and jeered the only coach to capture the Nations Cup for the ”Carthage Eagles”.

Midfielder Majid Traoui was the Tunisian saviour against Senegal, unleashing a rocket seven minutes from full-time to restore equality and leave the group wide open with each country having one point. – Sapa-AFP