/ 6 October 2009

Pienaar blow for Bafana

If there is such a thing, stealthy Steven Pienaar must be rated the ”form player” in the troubled Bafana Bafana team right now.

So, it was difficult to over-estimate the extent of the blow for the South African squad on Monday when the diminutive Everton midfielder withdrew from the squad to face Norway on Saturday and Iceland in the following week because of a knee injury.

And the irony of the situation is that Pienaar’s injury stems from a hefty tackle that flattened him when Everton played Portsmouth recently was delivered by none other than Bafana captain Aaron Mokoena.

Coming in as a replacement in the squad that leaves for Europe on Tuesday night is Ajax Cape Town’s Franklin Cale, who has been in sparkling form in the PSL of late.

But Cale does not have Pienaar’s varied experience and it might be asking too much from him to galvanise Bafana into action in the critical forthcoming matches as the future of Coach Joel Santana remains precariously balanced on a tightrope.

While the hysterical criticism aimed at the under-pressure Santana suggesting he is responsible for all Bafana’s woes is destructive, exaggerated and tinged with ignorance, there can be no disputing the fact that the Brazilian finds himself in a corner — partly because of his own shortcomings for the position.

And should Bafana return from their latest proclaimed, experience-building excursion for next year’s World Cup with two further defeats added to the six they have suffered in their last seven matches, the consequent elevation of hysteria that can be expected might well precipitate the new Safa administration sending Santana packing his bags on a one-way ticket to Rio de Janeiro.

This, mind you, after a crescendo of criticism has been heaped on him as being the culprit for the players making elementary defensive errors and squandering a mint of scoring opportunities. — Sapa