Bafana Bafana are prepared to put their bodies on the line to beat Japan when the countries meet in a friendly international at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday.
That was the message from Bafana skipper Aaron Mokoena on Thursday as the revitalised national team, now under head coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, get ready to wipe away the disappointing past few months where Bafana lost eight of their last nine matches which resulted in Joel Santana getting the boot.
”We know what is at stake with the World Cup just seven months away. There is a new spirit in the camp and we aim to get out there against Japan and battle and do whatever it takes to get us back on track,” said Mokoena.
”The past is history and we are not dwelling on it. We are looking forward and we believe we can surprise Japan who I rate as a fantastic side. I accept that it will be difficult and take an extra special effort to win. But we are prepared to do just that.”
Parreira who replaced Santana last month said the match against Japan signals a new beginning for Bafana. ”Time is going quickly and preparation is vital to me with the World Cup just around the corner. Playing Japan will give us much needed experience of playing against a side with a style we have never encountered before.”
Parreira praised Japan who have already qualified for the 2010 showpiece andwhich he reckons will be do well at the World Cup finals.
”We have to play to our strengths which are skill and composure. We are facing a side that plays high tempo soccer combined with good mobility. It will be an interesting game between teams with completely different styles and approaches to the game,” the national coach said.
Parreira stressed that beating Japan would do wonders to lift the confidence in the camp, which had taken a dip during Santana’s reign.
”It will be a big plus if we can beat Japan who have shown professionalism by coming here early to get a feel of conditions they are likely to face in the World Cup next June.
”But my first job is to bring back the confidence and self-belief and to do that we need to start winning matches again and building up a winning mentality starting against Japan,” said Parreira.
He admitted he was under pressure to deliver. ”I accept the pressure. It goes with the territory. I know my responsibility. My job is to make sure that Bafana get at least to the knockout stage of the World Cup. That is why playing top sides like Japan is important so that we learn and gain experience and that when we are in the World Cup we will be well prepared.”
Parreira said that Bafana had shown that they can hold their own by reaching the semifinals of the Confederations Cup at home in June.
”To me the Confederations Cup was the turning point. The team had a month to prepare and looked sharp and did well against two of the biggest sides in the world, Brazil and Spain.
”The spirit this week has been good and now it is up to the players to implement my philosophy on the pitch. Playing at home is a huge advantage in a major competition and we used that to good effect in the Confederations Cup and need to repeat it in the World
Parreira said his philosophy was a little different to that of the ultra-conservative Santana. Under Parreira Bafana are likely to be given room to express themselves and he will likely do away with the two defensive midfielders that Santana persisted in using.
Benni McCarthy and either Katlego Mphela or Bernard Parker will lead the attack with Teko Modise and Siphiwe Tshabalala pulling the strings in midfield.
Morgan Gould is set to partner Mokoena at the heart of the defence.
Japan’s two dangermen are their two European-based midfield stars Shunsuke Nakamura who plays for Espanyol in Spain and Makoto Hasebe who plays in the Bundesliga for Wolfsburg. — Sapa