Booth fired up

Bafana Bafana are expected to not just beat Mauritius in their practice match at the Germiston Stadium on Saturday but they also must be able to successfully implement head coach Joel Santana’s game plan which he will employ during the Confederations Cup in June.

That was the word from Bafana central defender Matthew Booth, who has sweated blood over the last three weeks as Santana has drilled him mercilessly in an effort to get the giant defender match and fighting fit.

Booth, who joined Mamelodi Sundowns in January after a six year stint in Russia, battled to get game time as the big spending Brazilians lurched from one coaching crisis to another and finished up with caretaker coach Ted Dumitru, who failed to stop Downs’ slide out of the top eight.

Said Booth: ”The training with Bafana has been hard but well worth the effort. I am feeling a lot better than I did when I started the camp three weeks ago.”

Booth, who captained his country at Bafana, SA under-23 and SA under-20 level, stressed the importance of the side doing well against Mauritius.

Despite the fact no caps will be awarded the players will be on their toes.

”We are expected to beat Mauritius we all know the coach will be trimming his squad next week to 23 and six members of the squad will drop out and not feature at the Confederations Cup.

”That is going to be tough, but we as players accept this is all part and parcel of soccer. That is why everyone will be hoping to impress.

”I agree with the coach picking a squad of 30 and trimming it because it gives him more options and affords the players on the fringe a chance to stake a claim for a place in the final 23.”

Booth said playing Mauritius would be an ideal match practice.

”After three weeks training we are all looking forward to a real match.

”We are not treating this as a practice or a friendly. This is our big test.”

Bafana midfield star Teko Modise, agreed but said he did not think the result was important. ”What is more important is we make sure we understand and apply the coach’s tactics and play well and the rest will follow.”

Both Booth and Modise are worried about the hamstring injury to Everton and Bafana star midfielder Steven Pienaar.

Pienaar suffered the injury in Everton’s last English Premiership clash against Fulham and his place in the Everton starting line-up for Saturday’s FA Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley is in doubt.

”I am praying Steven makes it and plays in the FA Cup final and comes home with a winner’s medal. He is a great player and his influence on the squad will be massive. I am keeping my fingers crossed he will be fit for the Confederations Cup.”

Booth said the squad badly missed the services of defender Lucas Thwala and midfielder Surprise Moriri who were forced to withdraw from the squad through injury and stressed Bafana could not afford to lose a player of Pienaar’s presence and ability. — Sapa

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