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Bafana: In search of strikers

Bafana Bafana desperately need to uncover a new striker ahead of next year’s Confederations Cup.

That was the opinion expressed on Wednesday by the chief executive officer of the 2010 local organising committee , Danny Jordaan.

While Jordaan is happy with the progress that R1,8-million-per-month head coach Carlos Alberto Parreira is making in rebuilding the national team, he is concerned by the fact that there is no successor in the wings to Blackburn Rovers striker Benni McCarthy.

Said a worried Jordaan: ”Failure at the Confederations Cup, which we host as a dress rehearsal to the 2010 World Cup finals, is not an option. As hosts of the Confederation Cup and the World Cup we must reach the second phase of both events. I believe the Confederations Cup will be an eye-opener and a massive test for Bafana. It will indicate how far we can go in the World Cup.”

Jordaan is right to be worried about Bafana’s lack of firepower. He points out that the top strikers in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) manage only about 15 goals per season. McCarthy banged in 29 goals for his English Premiership club last season and finished second to Chelsea’s Côte d’Ivoire superstar, Didier Drogba.

Said Jordaan: ”The fact that the PSL’s top scorers — and many are not even South Africans — score 15 goals or less is a worry. McCarthy scored twice that many goals against some of the top defenders in the world and yet he did not win the award for England’s top goal scorer.”

The defenders in the PSL are light years behind the likes of Chelsea skipper John Terry and his Manchester United skipper Rio Ferdinand.

Parreira, a World Cup winner in 1994 with his native Brazil, made a vital breakthrough last month when he led his charges to a stunning 3-0 win over Paraguay at Atteridgeville’s Super Stadium in a friendly. McCarthy scored during that friendly.

But Bafana’s first-round exit at January’s African Nations Cup finals in Ghana has not filled the public with confidence.

Said Jordaan: ”I believe Parreira will succeed. His track record speaks for itself. But we will be in trouble if we have to rely on one player [McCarthy] to get our goals.”

Jordaan is right when he says Bafana face a huge test at the Confederations Cup — in which eight teams compete every four years one year before the World Cup in a bid to test the readiness of the host country to stage a successful World Cup.

The eight teams competing for the cup will be: Bafana; world champions Italy; champions of North and Central America the United States; Iraq; Egypt, the 2008 African kingpins; South American champions Brazil; the European champions to be crowed after Euro 2008 in Austria/ Switzerland; and the new Oceanic winners, which are likely to be New Zealand.

The eight teams will be divided into two groups. The two top teams in each group go forward into the semifinals.

But teams from the same continent such as Italy and the Euro winner will not be allowed in the same group as per the rules.

Bafana will have plenty of match practice before June 2009 when the Confederations Cup kicks off. Bafana are involved in 2010 African Nations Cup qualifiers starting in June, when they will play their first four matches, and Parreira has other big-name friendly opponents lined up for his players later in the year. — Sapa

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