Madiba magic to shine on Bafana

2010-06-10 08:02

Bafana Bafana are ready to roll back the years to 1996 when they

last tasted glory as they play the most important match in their 18-year history tomorrow.

The team will be hoping Madiba Magic will shine on them in their

opening World Cup Group A showdown against Mexico at Soccer City which kicks off

at 4pm.

A record 94 700 sell-out crowd will watch history being made in the

first ever World Cup match played on South African soil.

Captain Aaron Mokoena said the 1-0 win over Denmark at the Super

Stadium in Pretoria last weekend was key for them.

“That win has given us extra confidence. We beat one of the best

teams in the world who are also playing in the World Cup. That was a massive

boost to the players.”

Former president Nelson Mandela met the players this week for a

motivational “chat".

Bafana, ranked 83rd in the world, need that Madiba touch against

the 17th ranked Mexican side.

Madiba supported the Rugby Springboks to glory in the 1995 World

Cup final at Ellis Park and a year later was at the old Soccer City to celebrate

Bafana winning the African Nations Cup.

Madiba, if he is able to attend, will be guest of honour at the new

multi-billion rand world class Soccer City.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter said the reason the world soccer

controlling body awarded the hosting of the world’s greatest sporting event to

South Africa was in honour and respect of what Madiba had achieved in uniting

South Africans when he became president of the new South Africa in 1994.

The local team experienced the euphoria of public support this week

and would be hoping the Central Americans would be buried under an avalanche of

some 90 000 vuvuzelas.

An estimated 150 000 fans turned out in Sandton on Wednesday to

show their support for Bafana. The team, playing better than ever, was

unrecognisable from the team Brazilian head coach Carlos Alberto Parreira

inherited last November.

At that time Bafana was down and out after a 17-month spell under

fellow Brazilian coach Joel Santana.

The SA Football Association axed Santana and brought back the

highly experienced Parreira, who won the World Cup with Brazil in 1994.

Parreira had given back Bafana their self-belief and was confident

that Bafana would navigate through a tough group, which included two former

world champions in Uruguay and France, to reach the second round.

Said Parreira: “When I took over Bafana last November the people

told me to make the country proud. We have worked incredibly hard in the past

five months and now we are ready to make the country proud.”

Win or lose Bafana have earned the respect of the nation by going

into the clash against Mexico with a 12-match unbeaten record.

The teams had met three times with Mexico winning twice while a

third string Bafana caused an upset in 2005 in the Gold Cup played in the United

States, winning 2-1.

Soccer City was in Parreira’s words “one of the most intimidating

stadiums I have ever been in” and the atmosphere with 90 000 vuvuzelas blown by

fanatical Bafana supporters would make most teams weak at the knees. But Mexico

were used to volatile and huge crowds and were not easily intimidated.

Bafana would strive for an early goal to fire up the already

partisan crowd and deliver a psychological killer blow to the Central

Americans.

Mokoena and his defenders would have to neutralise a strike force

that could include new Manchester United star Javier Hernandez, Guillermo Franco

and the Arsenal ace Carlos Vela.

In midfield expect Bafana star Steven Pienaar to show why he is

regarded as one of the best players in the world against Giovanni dos Santos.

Pienaar would be backed by Siphiwe Tshabalala and the rejuvenated Teko Modise

who would be loading ammunition for striker Katlego Mphela.

 

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