Nobody expects Bafana Bafana to trouble, never mind beat, magical Brazil when the sides meet in the semifinals of the Confederations Cup at a sell-out Ellis Park on Thursday night. Kick-off is at 8.30pm.
But four of the current Bafana squad, goalkeepers Rowen Fernandez and Brain Baloyi, and central defenders Aaron Mokoena and Matthew Booth have tasted South Africa’s only success against the Samba Kings when Booth, as captain, led the South Africa under-23 side to an historic 3-1 win over Brazil at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
And there is an air of expectation in the Bafana camp. Fernandez, who has been back-up keeper to new sensation Itumeleng Khune during the three group matches, remembers that magical day in Australia.
Fernandez said: ”It was the same that day in 2000 — nobody gave us a chance to beat a star-studded Brazil. But we did and we can do it again. We aim to roll back the years and shock the world.”
Fernandez said that the Australian crowd were right behind Amaglug-glug that day and said the Bafana fans at Ellis Park will be the players’ 12th man on Thursday.
”We also came close to beating Brazil in 1996 when we lost 3-2 [at Soccer City]. The fact we are underdogs suits us. But our secret weapon is going to be our supporters with their vuvuzelas. My appeal to fans is to make sure they bring their vuvuzelas and help us blow Brazil away by making as much noise as possible.” he added.
Some of the countries in the tournament, including Brazil and their star, Robinho, have called for the vuvuzelas to be banned by Fifa. But boss of world controlling body Fifa Sepp Blatter said vuvuzelas are here to stay for the this event and the 2010 World Cup finals.
Germany-based Fernandez said the Bafana players are inspired by the noise of the vuvuzelas and the crowd.
Fernandez said: ”The crowd was simply brilliant against Spain at the Free State Stadium last Saturday night. You have no idea what this means to the players, and it lifted us by having fans like ours screaming for us. It inspired us against Spain, despite the fact we lost. It was no disgrace losing 2-0 the number one team in the world. The 12th man — our fans — is going to make life difficult for Brazil.”
Bafana’s only loss in the group matches was against the European champions, and two mistakes cost Bafana a huge upset.
Said Fernandez of those two lapses: ”We spoke about the mistakes we made against Spain. We know that we were close to upsetting them. The fact they were not able to create the chances they expected at goal shows how well we played. We have identified the mistakes and will not repeat them against Brazil.”
Fernandez admitted that Bafana as hosts faced pressure on and off the field. He said: ”That’s normal and we are coping well with the pressure.”
He also stated that Bafana must not be overawed by the glittering stars that will line up against them on Thursday night.
Said Fernandez: ”Brazil are one of the world’s best sides. But we must not put them on a pedestal, rather we must go out 11 against 11 and get stuck in. I know for a fact that Matthew Booth cannot wait to get to grips with Kaka and his teammates on Thursday night. Booth knows that we can create another result like we did in Sydney, and he has been telling us that all week.” — Sapa