Brazil the ultimate test for Bafana

South Africa, seeking Brazilian inspiration to create their own samba-style team ahead of the 2010 World Cup, face the real thing in Thursday’s Confederations Cup semifinal.

The hosts have hired two Brazilian coaches in the last three years in a bid to form a competitive side at the World Cup and will get an indication of the size of their task when they play the five-times world champions in Johannesburg.

Brazil turned on the magic to defeat World Cup holders Italy 3-0 on Sunday and, even with home advantage for South Africa, the semifinal is seen by most pundits as something of a mismatch.

Coach Joel Santana has had a year at the helm for South Africa since replacing countryman Carlos Alberto Parreira, but instead of producing flowing football, the team have looked cautious.

The Brazilian’s tactics have come under fire and he may need to free his players if they are to stand a chance of an upset win on Thursday.

“I will make one or two changes,” Santana told reporters this week. “It will be good to face Brazil because this will be a good experience for my players.

“It is a very difficult match but it will be good for our preparations for the World Cup.”

Controversial penalty
Brazil, defending the Confederations title they won in Germany four years ago, started the tournament slowly and needed a controversial penalty to beat Egypt in a seven-goal thriller.

However, 3-0 victories over the United States and Italy have put them on course for the final.

“You must never take a victory for granted and when we play South Africa we know we face a very hard opponent,” said Brazil midfielder Gilberto Silva. “They have their fans behind them and everyone wants them to do well and we won’t under-estimate them.

“But we are playing well.
The team is balanced, the forwards are scoring goals and we are actually having a very good time here.”

Thursday’s winners meet Spain or the US in the final in Johannesburg on Sunday, while the losers clash in a third-place playoff earlier the same day.—Reuters