/ 20 October 2009

Safa prepares to name new coach

The South African Football Association is expected to name a new Bafana Bafana head coach on Friday to replace Joel Santana.

Brazilian-born Santana resigned on Monday after he met with the Safa management committee. This followed a dismal 16 months in charge of the national soccer team, that has seen the country plunge down the rankings to 85th place.

The 85th ranking is Bafana Bafana’s lowest to-date, with South Africa dropping 12 positions from last month’s 73rd placing.

Santana’s resignation was widely expected after he returned to Johannesburg last Thursday with a demoralised squad who lost both matches on a Scandinavian tour to Norway and Iceland last week.

The 1-0 loss to Iceland in Reykjavik last Tuesday night was the final straw. It was South Africa’s eighth defeat in their last nine friendly internationals since reaching the semifinals of the Confederations Cup in June.

Said Safa spokesperson Morio Sanyane: ”Santana resigned after he met with the president [Kirsten Nematandani] on Monday. The parties had a heart-to-heart talk and Santana decided to stand down.

In the meantime, Santana’s assistant coaches Pitso Mosimane and Brazilian born Jairo Leal, will take charge of the squad.

Santana’s downfall was widely predicted.

Santana replaced fellow Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira in June last year. Parreira — who won the World Cup with Brazil in 1994 — is one of the favourites to take charge of South Africa for the next eight months.

Santana’s first match in charge was a tough away African Nations Cup qualifier against Nigeria in Abuja. Bafana Bafana lost 2-0 and then failed to qualify for the Nations Cup finals in Angola in January.

The writing was on the wall during the Afcon qualifiers when Santana introduced his defensive formation.

The fact that he evaded questions on team selection at media briefings further alienated the local press. Santana was on the verge of being fired in June during the Confederations Cup after his ultra-defensive team were held to a 0-0 draw by lowly Iraq in the opening match played at Ellis Park on June 14.

But a 2-0 win over minnows New Zealand in the next game saved Santana’s neck. Bafana Bafana went on to lose 2-0 to Spain and were beaten by 1-0 by Brazil in the semifinals.

South Africa produced their best performance under Santana in the third placed play-off when Spain needed extra time to defeat the team 3-2 at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium on June 28.

The team beat 131st ranked Madagascar 1-0 last month in Kimberley.

Nematandani made no bones about the fact that Safa were determined to restore pride in the national team.

Last week they appointed three assessors, former team coaches Jomo Sono, Clive Barker and Gavin Hunt. – Sapa