Benni back in Bafana fold

Although new Bafana Bafana head coach Carlos Alberto Parreira was not officially involved in selecting the squad to play Japan in
Port Elizabeth on November 14 and Jamaica on November 17 in Bloemfontein, his influence with the recall of “bad boy” Benni McCarthy was obvious.

It was Parreira who coaxed the temperamental Blackburn Rovers striker out of his self-imposed, international retirement in September 2007 when the former Brazilian World Cup winner first coached Bafana.

McCarthy and Spanish-based central defender Nasief Morris both fell out of favour with Parreira’s predecessor Joel Santana prior to the Confederations Cup in June.

The 24-man squad was selected by the two assistant national coaches, Pitso Mosimane and Jairo Leal.

“But,” stressed Leal, “we discussed bringing back McCarthy with Parreira.

“We believe that it was time to bring him back. These are the last two friendly matches of 2009 and we want to have a look at him again. He is still the country’s top goal scorer and we want to see if we can still count on him.
The ball is in his court.”

McCarthy is struggling to get game time at Rovers and is reportedly looking to get a move from the English Premiership club in the January transfer window.

But the other significant selections were those of three South African under-20 stars, goalkeeper Darren Keet of BidVest Wits, midfielder Daylon Classen who plays for Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam and budding striker Kermit Erasmus who is making his name with another Dutch club SBV Excelsior Rotterdam.

“All three players showed potential at the recent World Youth Championships in Egypt and we reckon this is a good opportunity for them to be brought into the senior side. Keet has been with us before [for the friendly against Madagascar in September] but he did not play while Classen and Erasmus have shown enough promise to warrant them getting their chance for Bafana,” explained Leal.

There was no place for Morris but Mosimane emphasised that the squad could still change.

“This is not the final squad. We are bringing back the players one at a time. Morris’s time will come.

“We need a player of McCarthy’s experience. He is still a tremendous finisher,” said Mosimane.

McCarthy returns after a year’s absence and will find that he will have to fight for his place against two in-form strikers—Mamelodi Sundowns’ Katlego Mphela who is on fire in the PSL with 11 goals from 13 matches and Dutch-based Bernard Parker.

But, as in the past, nobody knows whether or not McCarthy will honour his call up. He has been known to ignore such call ups.

Said South African Football Association (Safa) CEO Raymond Hack: “The call up letters to all the players for these two friendly matches have gone out but nobody can force a player to play. But we are confident that all the players will be here when the squad assembles on Sunday night.”

The notable absentee from the squad was Everton’s midfield star Steven Pienaar who is still struggling to recover from an injury he sustained when he was tackled by Bafana skipper and Portsmouth hard man Aaron Mokoena in a recent English Premiership clash.

Parreira, who will address the media on Friday morning to outline his World Cup plans for Bafana, was a ‘guest’ at Thursday’s
announcement according to Hack.

Parreira, who arrived in Johannesburg on Thursday morning and was welcomed by Safa president Kirsten Nematandani, said he was pleased to be back in South Africa.

“I feel I am at home in South Africa. It is a great honour to guide Bafana to the World Cup which is just around the corner.”—Sapa

The squad:

Rowen Fernandez, Moeneeb Josephs, Darren Keet, Siboniso Gaxa, Bongani Khumalo, Morgan Gould, Tsepo Masilela, Aaron Mokoena, Anele
Ngcongca, Siyabonga Sangweni, Lucas Thwala, Daylon Classen, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Daine Klate, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Teko Modise, Macbeth Sibaya , Elrio van Heerden, Kermit Erasmus, Mabhuti Khenyeza, Katlego Mphela, Benni McCarthy, Bernard Parker.

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