/ 3 September 2009

Bafana must put Germany under pressure

Bafana Bafana must go for broke and take the game to Germany when they face the three times World Cup champions in a friendly international in Leverkusen on Saturday night.

That is the opinion of Bafana midfielder Siyabonga Nkosi, who spent 18 months playing in the Bundesliga for Arminia Bielefeld before returning home to play for PSL champions, SuperSport United, at the start of this season.

Said Nkosi: ”What I know from watching the German national team and players up close when I played for Bielefeld, was that they do not like to be put under pressure.

”They are an efficient and hard working side, but they are not Brazil and if Bafana attack and close them down, we can unsettle them.

”They are not unbeatable — even at home. They tend to crack when put under pressure and we have a lot of skilful players with pace that I reckon could do the job.”

Nkosi is recovering from a bout of flu and hopes to get a run against what is a formidable German squad who are using this friendly to get ready for the upcoming World Cup European Group Four qualifier against bottom of the table, Azerbaijan, next Wednesday.

The Germans are four points ahead of second placed Russia with 19 points in Group Four, but the Russians have a match in hand.

Only the group winner in each European qualifying group is guaranteed a place in South Africa next June. The best-placed runners-up go into a playoff system to qualify for the 2010 showpiece in South Africa.

German coach Joachim Loew, has his captain and midfield general Michael Ballack of Chelsea, Hannover 96 goalkeeper Robert Enke and winger Lucas Podolski, in the treatment room as they prepare to host the South Africans who also have a number of key players missing through injury.

Bafana are minus midfield playmaker Teko Modise, the Orlando Pirates who has a toe injury, as well as injured Kaizer Chiefs keeper Itumeleng Khune, Mamelodi Sundowns defender Matthew Booth, the hard-working midfield tiger Macbeth Sibaya of Russian outfit Ruben Kazan, and Greek-based rightback Bryce Moon.

The missing players gives Bafana head coach Joel Santana an opportunity to see what type of depth he has. Second choice keeper Rowen Fernandez, who plays for Bielefeld, is set to get his first start since last June when he played against Nigeria.

Fernandez played in the second half of the disappointing 3-1 loss to Serbia in a friendly played at the Super Stadium last month, but is looking forward to getting some game time now that Khune is out for three months with a hand injury.

Santana has made some surprising selections for his squad that includes Bloemfontein Celtic keeper Shu-Aib Walters, who is not rated as a potential national player and is not expected to play.

The coach has forgiven Sundowns striker Mabhuti Khenyeza for missing his call up to the Confederations Cup by selecting him for this European trip which also includes a friendly international against Ireland in Limerick next Tuesday night.

For Khenyeza, who has never looked comfortable playing for his country, this is surely his last chance if he plays in either friendly.

Santana would do better to partner free-scoring Golden Arrows striker Richard Henyekane with Dutch-based Bernard Parker against Germany.

Santana selected Pirates striker Katlego Mashego to replace Modise, which does not make a lot of sense. Santana is praying that classy Chiefs winger Siphiwe Tshabalala, will be fit after missing three months with injury following the Confederations Cup.

Santana will have to decide who to partner skipper Aaron Mokoena with at the heart of the defence in place of Booth. He has three choices in the form of Israel based Bevan Fransman, and the two SuperSport United defenders Morgan Gould and Bongani Khumalo.

They will have the job of looking after the German strikers, two of which Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez, play for Bayern Munich with Stuttgart’s Brazilian-born forward Cacau, set to get some game time against Bafana. — Sapa