Fernandez on a mission

Rowen Fernandez is on a mission to regain the Bafana Bafana number one jersey at the Confederations Cup in June.

So determined is Fernandez he decided not to go for a week’s holiday after the end of the Bundesliga season, but opted instead to join his Bafana teammates in camp this week, when most of the European based players will join the camp on Monday.

The German-based Fernandez was the number one choice until last June when then new national head coach, Joel Santana, dropped him after a 2-0 away defeat against Nigeria in the opening African Nations Cup qualifier in Abuja, despite Fernandez being man of the match and saving Bafana from an embarrassing hiding. The Super Eagles went on to win the group undefeated and Bafana failed to qualify for the 2010 African Nations Cup in Angola.

Fernandez has been plagued by injury since August and has not had much game time and had little to do with the fact that his German club Amelia Bielefeld were relegated.

Said Fernandez: “I am fully fit; I have trained hard and am determined to fight for my place.”

Bielefeld still want to hold onto the South African international and have offered Fernandez a three year extension to his contract which runs until the end of next season.

Said Fernandez: “I have not made up my mind about my future.
A lot depends on the Confederations Cup. I desperately want to prove my point and get a chance to show my ability.

“The Confederations Cup could be a showcase for me and if I get the chance I am going to make it count.”

Fernandez is one of four keepers in the squad. Santana has preferred the 22-year-old Kaizer Chiefs keeper Itumeleng Khune, despite his indifferent form for both Kaizer Chiefs and Bafana over the past season, while Orlando Pirates’ Moeneeb Josephs has helped the Bucs claim the PSL runner-up spot, with the surprise choice of veteran Mamelodi Sundowns keeper, Brain Baloyi.

One of the four will drop out on June 4 when Santana cuts his now 29-man provisional squad to 23 as per Fifa rules for the competition.

Bafana open their campaign when they face Asian champions Iraq in the opening Group A match at Ellis Park on June 14. Three days later Bafana play New Zealand in Rustenburg and end their group programme against favourites and the world’s ranked top side, Spain, in Bloemfontein on June 20.

Fernandez said he was impressed by the way Santana has built up team spirit in the camp.

“The spirit has been positive. There is a fantastic self belief in the camp and I am sure that is down to the head coach.

“I was really impressed when I joined this week. The high spirits auger well for the tournament, but it is vital we kickoff on a winning note.”

Fernandez said he spotted one weakness in Bafana’s make-up in their last two matches against Norway and Portugal, and that was failing to defend set pieces.

Bafana defeated Norway 2-1 in Rustenburg and were well beaten 2-0 by Portugal in Switzerland in April and Fernandez was part of both squads for the matches but did not get any game time. All three goals came from set pieces.

“We need to tighten up our defence and marking. I am sure that will come as the stakes are high in the Confederations Cup and we will have learnt from both games.

“We are up against top class opposition who will be out to try and work us over, especially as we are the host nation.”

Fernandez stressed the players who get the chance to play in the Confederations Cup must make use of any opportunity as they will be able to do themselves a power of good.

He explained: “Not only will club scouts from all over the world attend all the matches, but this is Bafana players’ door to the
2010 World Cup. A good performance will virtually cement a place in the 2010 finals and I am determined to be there.”—Sapa

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