Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund on Friday named what he described as his "strongest squad bar none" to face World Cup hosts Brazil at FNB Stadium on Wednesday, March 5.
"Fortunately, there were no injuries or other impediments to limit my selection on this very important and exciting occasion," said Igesund.
"I have chosen what is largely the same group of players who shocked world champions Spain with a merited 1-0 victory at the same venue in November last year."
The 23 Bafana players to face Brazil are:
- Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs, captain)
- Ronwen Williams (SuperSport United)
- Thabo Nthete (Mamelodi Sundown)
- Bongani Khumalo (Doncaster Rovers)
- Buhle Mkhwanazi (Pretoria University)
- Siyanda Xulu (FC Rostov, Russia)
- Anele Ngcongca (Racing Genk, Belgium)
- Thato Mokeke (SuperSport United)
- Thabo Matlaba (Orlando Pirates)
- Dean Furman (Doncaster Rovers, England)
- Kagisho Dikgacoi (Crystal Palace, England)
- Siphiwe Tshabalala (Kaizer Chiefs)
- Daylon Claasen (Lech Poznan, Poland)
- Thulani Serero (Ajax Amsterdam, Holland)
- Andile Jali ( KV Oostende, Belgium)
- Oupa Manyisa (Orlando Pirates)
- Ayanda Patosi (Lokern FC, Belgium)
- Lindokuhle Mbatha (Platinum Stars)
- Bongani Zungu (Mamelodi Sundowns)
- Hlompho Kekana (Mamelodi Sundowns)
- Bernard Parker (Kaizer Chiefs)
- Tokelo Rantie (Bournmouth FC, England)
- Dino Ndlovu (SuperSport United)
Igesund's claim that he had chosen all South Africa's top players for this testing occasion was emphasised by the fact that there was hardly a single dissenting query from a packed audience of media representatives at the squad announcement – in striking contrast to what is the norm on such occasions.
"It is not every day that one gets to play against a team that boasts the credentials of five-times world champions," said the Bafana coach.
"This is a great opportunity to continue where we left off against Spain.
World Cup selection
"We also performed with much credit when we lost narrowly by a 1-0 margin to Brazil on the last occasion the countries met, but we know we are up against a team that will be motivated by playing in their second-last warm-up match before the World Cup and all the players will be out to cement their places in their final squad.
"They will be bringing most, if not all their top players to South Africa, but I also have a lot of confidence in the squad I have selected and I believe we will again be very competitive on the night."
While still to finalise their squad, Brazil have named 16 European-based players to face Bafana, most of whom are major luminaries in world soccer and members of charismatic clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Paris St Germaine.
The 16 Brazilian players already named for the FNB Stadium game are goalkeeper Julio Cesar; defenders Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Dante, Dani Alves, Rafinha and Marcelo; midfielders Paulinho, Fernandinho, Luiz Gustavo, Ramires, Oscar and Willian; and strikers Neymar, Hulk and Bernard.
The remainder of the squad will come from players based in Brazil and these players are expected to be announced within the next week.
Serero cleared for play
Igesund said the disciplinary issue regarding Ajax Amsterdam midfielder Thulani Serero had been settled "months ago" and there were no outside issues preventing his return to the Bafana squad.
As for Igesund's own future as Bafana coach, a special meeting of the South African Football Association (Safa) international and technical committee on Thursday reaffirmed his position in charge for the Brazil encounter.
Safa also announced the formation of a committee to investigate unsubstantiated media reports that the Bafana coach had been guilty of certain technical irregularities, which raised the possibility that someone was gunning for him despite the fact that President Zuma and sports minister Fikile Mbulela, among others, have praised him and expressed unreserved confidence in his ability.
Igesund's current contract expires in July, but those present at Bafana's squad announcement were informed in no small measure that no questions or comments relating to the coach's future would be allowed.