Tovey tells Bafana to go on the attack

Attack, attack, attack.

That is the only option open to Bafana Bafana when they host Nigeria in an all-or-nothing 2010 Africa Cup of Nations group four qualifier in Port Elizabeth on Saturday. Kick-off is at 3pm.

That was the message to new Bafana coach Joel Santana from former captain Neil Tovey as the Brazilian prepares his squad to play the Super Eagles. Nigeria have already won group four and a place in the final qualifying round for the 2010 continental showpiece in Angola.

South Africa have to beat Nigeria to keep the door to Angola 2010 open.

Said Tovey: “A draw is no good to us.
We need to win to give ourselves a chance to qualify for the next round. We cannot do that if we sit back and allow Nigeria to come at us. We need to get on top of Nigeria from the start and get our fans on top of Nigeria and make sure we use our home-ground advantage as best we can.”

Tovey played 52 times for his country—29 of those as captain. Tovey’s greatest moment was on February 3 1996 when he lifted the Africa Cup of Nations trophy in front of 90 000-plus fans at the FNB Stadium after Bafana had beaten Tunisia 2-0 in the final.

Sadly, since then Bafana have slowly but surely slipped down the rankings to 73rd in the world and have dropped to 16th in Africa.

Tovey said the decision by the South African Football Association to stage the match at the EPRU Stadium was the wrong one: “Playing on a cabbage patch will not help Bafana. The Bafana technical team should
have told the officials who decided to play in Port Elizabeth to get knotted and should have played the match at altitude in Gauteng.

“I cannot understand the reasoning behind playing such an important game on a pitch that is not suitable.”

The Premier Soccer League (PSL) earlier condemned the pitch and has prevented newly promoted Port Elizabeth-based PSL club Bay United from playing their matches there until the condition of the pitch has improved.

The Nigerian squad arrived in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday minus four key players from the English Premiership—they are skipper and leading striker Nwankwu Kanu of Portsmouth, Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel, Everton defender Joseph Yobo and Newcastle United forward Obafemi Martins.

Tovey said the fact that a number of Super Eagles stars have pulled out of the game was bad news for the home side: “That is not good news as Nigeria have a huge pool of players. The players replacing those four will be determined to play well and impress. So missing four top stars will not weaken Nigeria significantly.”

Santana has stubbornly fielded two defensive midfielders in the last two matches against Sierra Leone and Australia, which ended 0-0 and 2-2 respectively.

Tovey warns it is time to throw caution to the wind and attack: “Rather lose 4-3 than draw 0-0. We need to throw everything into attack and take the game to Nigeria. If we get our tactics right we can upset them and keep our hopes alive.”—Sapa

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