/ 7 October 2009

Mhlongo wants improvement for Bafana

Bafana Bafana must find a quick solution to their poor run of form when they face Norway in a friendly international in Oslo on Saturday.

That was the message from senior midfield star Benson Mhlongo as the national squad gets ready for what promises to be a tough two match tour. Next Tuesday Bafana travel to Reykjavic to face Iceland.

Defeat could mean the end of Bafana head coach Joel Santana’s reign. The Brazilian has bumbled to six defeats in the last seven matches and Bafana have only a fortunate 1-0 win over lowly Madagascar to show from seven friendly matches since the Confederations Cup in June.

That win came courtesy of a generous referee who saved Bafana from drawing with Madagascar, ranked 131st in the world, in Kimberley last month. The Botswana referee, Joshua Bondo, disallowed what looked a good equaliser late in the game.

Mhlongo, however, was full of fighting spirit ahead of their next two games.

”We know that with the new committee and president at Safa we have to deliver. The president [ of Safa, Kirsten Nematandani] expects us to get results and we all agree.”

The new regime at Safa, which was voted into office last Saturday, have told Santana in no uncertain terms that they expect results, and fast.

Mhlongo, a class defensive midfielder, has tackled the pressure and media hype surrounding calls for Santana to be sacked and Bafana’s poor form with the same ease he deals with attacking opponents.

”We are aware of the pressure,” he said. ”I can handle the pressure, but I am worried about the youngsters in the squad.

”My job is to protect them and educate them. It is not an easy time for Bafana or the coach, but we must get through it and the only way to do that and win back the support of the people is to start winning. It is no use having 80% possession and losing.”

Mhlongo is determined to make good in Norway.

”We owe it to the nation to start getting results. We are worried about so many defeats.

”I would even settle for a couple of draws on this trip. We must ensure that we end this bad trend.”

Defender Morgan Gould hopes he will get the chance to play against Norwegian captain and leading goal scorer Johan Carew who plays for Aston Villa in the English Premiership.

”I know we are under the cosh on this trip, but I would love the chance of playing against a star like Carew,” Gould said. ”I am confident I can handle him.”

The SuperSport United central defender, who will hope to start alongside captain Aaron Mokoena, said the players knew what was expected from them.

”The chips are down and no matter what happens I will give 120% effort if I play,” said Gould.

”And that goes for all my teammates. We badly want to end this run of defeats and show that we are building a competitive squad to play at the World Cup next June.” — Sapa