It’s Khune vs Neymar

2014-03-02 14:01

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Wednesday’s international friendly match between South Africa and Brazil will pit poster boys Itumeleng Khune and Neymar against each other.

The Bafana Bafana captain has entrenched himself as the best shot?stopper in the business locally while Neymar possesses one of the deadliest boots in the industry ­globally.

The question going into this all-important encounter is: can Khune stop Neymar from scoring in the same way he thwarted the Barcelona striker when the two first came face to face in September 2012?

It was in that friendly encounter at Estádio do Morumbi in São Paulo, Brazil, where the Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper brought to the fore his remarkable reflexes in goal against the tricky striker renowned for netting special goals.

Hulk scored the winner for Brazil on that day.

The game on Wednesday will hint to the final formation of the Brazil World Cup squad that coach Felipe Scolari will announce on May 7.

The Brazilian Football Confederation said the match will be the last friendly before the final selection.

Technical sponsors Nike also jumped on the bandwagon as they will launch Brazil’s World Cup jersey at this encounter while Bafana will be kitted in a limited edition uniform.

Like most of his Seleção team-mates, the trip to South Africa will be an ideal occasion for Neymar to stake a claim in the side for the global tournament they are hosting in June and July.

Scolari said during the announcement of his team recently Bafana will be an important test?to build up for the global tournament, pointing at South Africa’s 1-0 win over world champions Spain in November.

But the question is: who will partner Neymar in the attack?

Will Scolari keep Fred, who is coming back from injury?

Fred – with 16 goals in 31 appearances and a top scorer at last year’s Fifa Confederations Cup with five goals – has not played for Brazil since last August after a thigh-muscle sprain.

Neymar has scored 11 times in all competitions in 26 games so far this season while Khune has kept 10 clean sheets in the Absa Premiership to date during the current season.

Khune continues to be the in-form player in the league and Bafana coach Gordon Igesund will hope that his goalie’s experience will be vital to put the early exit in the African Nations Championship behind them.

The inspirational skipper will lead his Bafana team-mates from the back to counter the blend of the most experienced campaigners in the Seleção such as goalkeeper Júlio César and defender Dani Alves, who boast 150 caps between them.

Brazil have fond memories of South Africa.

The Samba Boys once overturned a two-goal deficit to win 3-2 on two occasions on these shores: against Bafana in a friendly in April 1996 and the US in the 2009 Fifa Confederations Cup final.

Brazilian players will arrive tomorrow in three batches. The game kicks off at 7pm on Wednesday.

Fact file


Full name:  Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior

Age: 22

Brazil debut: USA vs Brazil (August 10 2010)

Caps: 46

Goals: 27

Interesting facts: Neymar’s amazing goals and ­dribbling skills made him a YouTube sensation in late 2009.

He has featured consistently in the Fifa Puskas Award category in which the judges vote for beautiful goals.

Neymar’s strike for Santos against Flamengo won him the award in 2011.

The world has now almost forgotten about former stars Ronaldinho and Robinho since Neymar ­announced his grand entrance on the big stage at the Fifa Confederations Cup that Brazil hosted and won last year. He was voted the tournament’s most ­valuable player.

He has nearly 10?million followers on Twitter.

Fact file

Itumeleng Khune

Full name: Itumeleng Isaac Khune

Age: 26

Bafana debut: SA vs Zimbabwe (March 11 2008)

Caps: 65

Interesting facts: Khune is in the same commercial stable as Manchester United and England striker Wayne Rooney after the Chiefs goalkeeper signed with England-based agency Triple S Sports and ­Entertainment Group last month.

In his first match against Brazil in September last year, Khune came to the rescue of team-mate Dino Ndlovu by lending him his boots after the striker’s ­luggage went missing at the airport.

While growing up in Tshing Township in North West, Khune used to play cricket with his friends, imitating his childhood hero Nicky Boje.

Khune’s ever-improving game is due in large part to the advanced goalkeeper training he has received from his longtime German trainer, Rainer Dinkelacker.

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