Bafana ‘ready for the battle that lies ahead’

The Bafana Bafana technical team has been working overtime and done its homework on South Africa’s Group A World Cup opponents, Mexico.

Bafana meet the Mexicans, ranked 17 in the world, in what will open the first Soccer World Cup on African soil at Soccer City in the opening clash on Friday afternoon. Kick-off is at 4pm.

Bafana assistant coach Jairo Leal said national head coach Carlos Alberto Parreira and his technical team were “more than satisfied” with the way Bafana had prepared for the long-awaited Mexican showdown.

“We will be well prepared, in fact very well prepared, and we have observers close to the Mexican camp helping us,” said Leal.

He also said he was impressed by the way the players have got down to business during the past five months and bought into Parreira’s tactics.

“It has been tremendous. Every single member of the squad is fit and ready for the battle that lies ahead.

“We are confident we can achieve our first goal and that is to get into the second round of the World Cup.

“The players have shown their commitment and bought into the head coach’s plan and we are looking good and confident.”

Leal disclosed the Bafana brains trust had what he termed ‘observers” also watching Bafana’s other two Group A opponents, Uruguay and France. Bafana play two-time world champions Uruguay at Loftus on June 16 and meet 1998 world champs France in Bloemfontein on June 22.

“We have good information on what is happening inside the Mexican camp. It helps us prepare Bafana for the big day on Friday.

“We have also done our homework by watching every Mexican game since they started their World Cup qualifying campaign right up until last week’s friendly 2-1 win over defending World Cup champions Italy.”

Leal said Parreira knows who the Mexican danger men are and who Bafana need to keep an eye on.

The threat from midfield could come from Giovanni Dos Santos, who is on loan to Turkish giants Galatasaray from English Premiership side Tottenham Hotspur.

Tough opponents
Leal also rates the Mexican strike force highly. “They have [Javier] Hernandez, who has just signed for Manchester United and is showing top form now.

“They also have potent strikers in Guillermo Franco [West Ham United] and Carlos Vera of Arsenal. They also have the experience of veteran Mexico-based striker Cuauhtémoc Blanco.

“They are good, top-class professionals and will be tough opponents.”

Franco plays for the same English Premiership team, West Ham United, as discarded Bafana striker Benni McCarthy. McCarthy will not be facing his club mate on Friday as the overweight and unfit former star was dropped by Parreira when he trimmed his squad to 23 last week.

McCarthy is not going to be missed as the players have built up an amazing team spirit during the camps this year in Durban, Brazil and Germany.

“The one major plus for us is the fantastic team spirit that has developed among the players during the three camps this year,” said Leal.

Bafana trained in Durban, Brazil and Germany in preparation for the World Cup.

Instead of McCarthy, new Bafana hero Katlego Mphela of Mamelodi Sundowns, who has scored six goals in the last five matches, will carry the hope of the nation against Mexico. — Sapa

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