Bafana look to the future

Russia-based central defender Matthew Booth finally comes in from the Bafana Bafana cold after three years in the international wilderness when he anchors the defence in a friendly international against Guinea at Atteridgeville’s Super Stadium on Tuesday night. Kick-off is at 6pm.

Bafana coach Joel Santana said Booth would be among a number of players who he would be running the rule over.

Bafana were eliminated from the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals, to be held in Angola, after they were beaten 1-0 by group four winners Nigeria in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.

But Bafana regained some pride and fighting spirit in the way they fought until the bitter end and had the more-fancied Super Eagles on the ropes for much of the match, and did more than enough to win.

A good performance and a win is a must over Guinea to confirm that Bafana are turning the corner.

In confirming that Booth, who captains Russian side Krylya Sovetov, would be one of a number of players who would be fielded and who did not get a run against the Super Eagles, the Bafana head coach said he was expanding his pool of players as the Confederations Cup and 2010 World Cup finals get closer.

Booth last played for Bafana on August 13 2005 and has 15 caps under his belt. He is the only player to have captained his country at all three levels — SA under-20, SA under-23 and Bafana.

Said Santana: ”I was pleased with the spirit and display against a big country like Nigeria. I could not have asked more, except that we start scoring goals. The team played really well and I want to keep that momentum going against Guinea.

”But at the same time I want to give other players a chance to stake a claim for the Confederations Cup next June and [for the] World Cup.”

Santana added that the 2010 Afcon setback is history.

He said: ”Nobody is more disappointed than me as coach not to be taking Bafana to Angola. But at the end of the day I was hired to build a team for the 2010 World Cup finals and that work intensifies from now on, and every friendly game is important.”

Booth could play alongside one of Mbulelo Mabizela, another who has returned after an absence of over two-and-a-half years, Israel-based Bevan Fransman or rookie SuperSport United central defender Bongani Khumalo.

Said Santana: ”I want to have a look at Booth in a competitive match. That is the only way I can assess him and other players we have believed can be in our plans. Guinea, who have just played Zimbabwe in Harare, will be an ideal opponent for us as they will be sharp and make us work hard.” That Afcon qualifier ended 0-0.

Santana has retained the bulk of the squad that did duty against Nigeria, but has rested his captain on the day, Blackburn Rovers striker Benni McCarthy, Germany-based left back Bradley Carnell and Kaizer Chiefs’ speedy left wing, Siphiwe Tshabalala.

Said Santana: ”Those players I know. In Benni’s case, I did not want to risk further injury. He injured his groin in our 2-2 draw against Australian in London. But I will have a look at other strikers in the frame.”

Those strikers are veteran Sibusiso Zuma of Mamelodi Sundowns, who came on as a substitute against Nigeria, plus the two new additions to the squad, Bernard Parker of Thanda Royal Zulu and Bloemfontein Celtic’s erratic Petrus Mahlatsi.

The veteran, Zuma, was disappointed at not starting against Nigeria. He came on as a second-half substitute, but Santana could make amends for the flying Zuma by making him captain. He would be a good choice to lead the side now that McCarthy and Mokoena are not playing.

With Tshabalala rested, Moroka Swallows’ star Lefa Tsutsulupa should get a run, while this friendly is tailor-made for SuperSport’s budding right wing star, Daine Klate.

Two Orlando Pirates players, Lebogang Mothibantwa and Thulasizwe Mbuyane, are also expected to add to their international tally of caps.

Their Buccaneers teammate and midfield playmaker, Teko Modise, who shone against the Super Eagles, should also get another chance to weave his magic and show Santana that he is the man to take charge of the engine room in 2010. — Sapa

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