Now is the time for budding Bafana Bafana stars to stand up and be counted as South Africa take on Nigeria in a tough 2010 African Nations Cup qualifier in Abuja on Sunday. Kick-off is at 5pm South African time.
There is no Benni McCarthy, and three midfield aces in Teko Modise, Delron Buckley and Lerato Chabangu are all nursing an assortment of injuries. But all will travel to Nigeria.
Blackburn Rovers striker McCarthy failed to arrive for duty on Monday and, after a meeting with new head coach Joel Santana, the United Kingdom-based star was told his services were not required for the four crunch back-to-back qualifiers starting on Sunday.
McCarthy, who seems to only want to play when it suits him, cited ”personal problems” for failing to arrive on time for the start of the camp on Monday, but Santana decided he could not afford to dish out special privileges, and after the meeting it was agreed McCarthy would go back to Cape Town and sort out his personal problems before deciding on the next step.
Bafana assistant coach Pitso Mosimane said that while the team would miss McCarthy’s experience, this was the perfect opportunity for one of the young strikers in the squad to make a name for himself.
Said Mosimane: ”It is a big challenge, but I believe we have enough quality in the squad. This is going to be a tough assignment, but we are not pessimistic. On the contrary, we believe we will upset the Super Eagles. I want the players to put up their hands and be counted.”
Santana and his technical team watched Nigeria’s 1-1 away draw against Austria, while the South African Football Association sent their SA under-23 coach, Steve Komphela, to Vienna to watch the game and report back.
Said Mosimane: ”Nigeria did not play their full team but Steve said he had never seen the Super Eagles play so well.”
Mosimane, meanwhile, also said that although it had been a difficult week for the technical team having to deal once again with the usual Benni problem and injuries to key players, the week ended on a positive note.
The three strikers Mosimane is hoping will come to the party are Maccabi Haifa’s Terror Fanteni, SuperSport United’s Katlego Mashego and Orlando Pirates’ Excellent Walaza.
Said Mosimane: ”This is a big chance for two or all three of those strikers and I bet they are dying to show what they are made of.”
But Santana and his staff have a difficult problem to solve in defence. Who to field in place of injured central defender Nasief Morris? The obvious choice would appear to be Moroka Swallows’ Bevan Fransman, but Mamelodi Sundowns’ Robyn Johannes has weighed in with some solid displays for the Nedbank Cup winners.
Said Mosimane: ”The injury that has forced Morris to miss the next four matches was a blow as he and Aaron Mokoena have established a good understanding. But this is another challenge we need to tackle and we will come up with the right answer.”
Bryce Moon will play at right back and Tsepo Masilela at left back. Both youngsters were outstanding at the African Nations Cup finals in Ghana in January.
The midfield is a minefield with so many injuries. But Santana and his assistants will be cautious and defensive players such as Macbeth Sibaya and Kagisho Dikgacoi are expected to play key roles.
Mosimane said the players had started getting used to Santana’s methods. ”It takes time for players and a new coach to gel. The players are happy and enjoyed the training this week. I reckon Santana is going to be a big hit and get the results we need.”
Although Mosimane, Santana and Bafana’s other assistant coach, Jairo Leal, will be dissecting the DVD of Nigeria’s draw with Austria, they know the Super Eagles will field their best team on Sunday.
Explained Mosimane: ”A lot of their stars did not play against Austria but the big guns will be rolled out against us. They also have a new coach in Shaibu Amodu. I reckon they could feel the pressure playing at home given that they, like us, did not perform well in Ghana.”
The big guns include Super Eagles skipper Nwankwo Kanu of Portsmouth and his striking partner, Everton’s Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Newcastle United hit man Obafemi Martins and classy Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel.
South Africa: Goalkeepers: Itumeleng (Kaizer Chiefs), Rowen Fernandez (Arminia Bielefeld, Germany), Moeneeb Josephs (BidVest Wits) Defenders: Aaron Mokoena (Blackburn Rovers, England), Bongani Khumalo (SuperSport United), Mokete Tsotsetsi (Chiefs), Bryce Moon (Ajax Cape Town), Bevan Fransman (Moroka Swallows), Tsepo Masilela (Maccabi Haifa, Israel), Innocent Mdledle (Orlando Pirates), Pa Gaxa (SuperSport United), Robyn Johannes (Mamelodi Sundowns) Midfielders: Lance Davids (Djurgardens, Sweden), Macbeth Sibaya (Rubin Kazan, Russia), Delron Buckley (Borrusia Dortmund, Germany), Surprise Moriri (Sundowns), Kagisho Dikgacoi (Golden Arrows), Steven Pienaar (Everton, England), Gerald Sibeko, Siphiwe Tshabalala (both Chiefs), Teko Modise (Pirates) Strikers: Excellent Walaza (Pirates), Thembinkosi Fanteni (Maccabi Haifa, Israel), Lerato Chabangu (Sundowns) and Katlego Mashego (SuperSport United).
Nigeria: Goalkeepers: Dele Aiyenugba (Bnei Yehuda), Austin Ejide (Bastia), Vincent Enyeama (Hapoel Tel Aviv) Defenders: Onyekachi Apam (Nice), Elderson Echiejile (Stade Rennes), Yusuf Mohamed (Al Hilal), Obinna Nwaneri (FC Sion), Chidi Odiah (CSKA Moscow), Danny Shittu (Watford), Taye Taiwo (Olympique Marseille), Joseph Yobo (Everton) Midfielders: Yusuf Ayila (Dynamo Kiev), Uche Kalu (Almeria), Haruna Lukman (Monaco), John Obi Mikel (Chelsea), Seyi Olofinjana (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Ike Uche (Getafe) Strikers: Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Victor Anichebe (both Everton), Nwankwo Kanu (Portsmouth), Obafemi Martins (Newcastle United), Obinna Nsofor (Chievo Verona), Peter Odemwingie (Lokomotiv Moscow), Kayode Odejayi (Barnsley), Emmanuel Okoduwa (Westerlo), John Utaka (Portsmouth). — Sapa