Will Bafana choke on red-hot Chile?

Bafana Bafana coach Joel Santana is worried about midfielder MacBeth Sibaya’s level of match fitness ahead of next week’s high-profile international friendly against Chile.

Sibaya, who plays for Rubin Kazan FC of Russia, was included in the 24-man squad despite having last played competitive football in November, when the Russian season ended.

Other players who were based in Europe, Matthew Booth (Russia) and Lance Davids (Sweden), were also roped in for the tie. Booth and Davids have since signed for Mamelodi Sundowns and SuperSport United respectively as they seek to make the final Confederations squad.

Santana said he was most concerned about Sibaya. ”I have to sit down with my technical team and speak to Sibaya about whether he will be able to play. Their season ended last year and he may not be fit enough.

”I want to stick with the players that you know so we can follow up on our good performances. I don’t like changing a team unless it is unavoidable,” he said.

Bafana Bafana will face the red-hot Chile team next Wednesday at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane.

Santana’s troops will go into the match boasting five consecutive victories — against Malawi, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Cameroon and Zambia.

The Brazilian coach would like to stretch his winning streak to six but he knows it will be an uphill battle to beat the tough South Americans.

”I know Chile very well and our players know what is expected of them. Chile is a very strong team and they will fight very hard and that is exactly what we want. Countries from the South American continent offer different styles of play and it is important to be exposed to these styles.

”The match will be a great test for us and we’ll see after the match where we stand in terms of our preparations for the Confederations Cup and the 2010 World Cup,” he said.

A training camp for locally based players will follow the match ahead of friendly matches against Norway, Portugal and Switzerland. As part of his preparations, Santana is using two groups of players, the first comprising those plying their trade in the PSL, the second consisting of both local and overseas-based players.

Santana has urged players to put in extra effort in their clubs. ”The door is still wide open for players to make the Bafana Bafana squad.”

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Lucky Sindane
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