Bafana ‘will play attacking game’

2009-06-25 00:00

BUOYED by Madiba’s magic and lifted by a capacity Ellis Park crowd and wave of national support, Bafana Bafana will attempt to pull off the near-impossible by beating Brazil in tonight’s 2009 Confederations Cup semi-final.

The South Africans yesterday met former president Nelson Mandela, the inspiration behind the Springboks’ 1995 Rugby World Cup victory and Bafana’s 1996 African Nations Cup triumph, at his offices in Houghton.

“The ‘old man’ has always been behind all the Bafana Bafana teams and he has been our inspiration, and we will try and do it for him tomorrow,” South Africa captain Aaron Mokoena said later.

Bafana will need all the help they can get, whether from Mandela or the vuvuzela-blowing crowd, in another cauldron that will back the national team tonight, if they are to beat Brazil and progress to the final at Ellis Park on Sunday against USA.

A potential blow to South Africa’s hopes is that star striker Bernard Parker limped off with a slight knee injury in their final training session at the Rand Stadium yesterday.

Parker will undergo a medical test today. Should he not be passed fit, he will join suspended Macbeth Sibaya as the only two players unavailable for Bafana.

The game will also be another big test for coach Joel Santana. Despite guiding Bafana to their first major semi-final since the Nations Cup in Nigeria and Ghana eight years ago, Santana has been criticised by some in the South African press for his selections and tactics.

Bafana press conferences have become an edgy affair between the critical elements of the local media and their Brazilian counterparts, who have nothing but respect for Santana.

Asked about his perceived defensive tactics at yesterday’s briefing at Ellis Park, Santana responded: “I would like to know who says my team plays too defensively — give me their names please?”

The response was not entirely out of place — Santana might have got his tactics wrong in the opening 0-0 draw against a beatable Iraq, but South Africa were far more attacking in their 2-0 victory over New Zealand and encouraging 2-0 defeat to world number one-ranked Spain.

“We learnt a lot playing Spain,” Santana said. “We know Brazil are extremely powerful, but we are going to try to play football that is as beautiful as they play, and not be fearful of them. I know we are going to play well tomorrow.”

Santana promised a measured, attacking approach against Brazil.

“Whether I say we will attack or defend, we have to be well-organised. It does not mean we will attack with six players — it will be an organised attack.

“We are playing Brazil and I can’t say to the players or supporters that we are going to defend for 90 minutes, not wanting to win the game. I don’t have the right to do that.

“And it is impossible to defend for 90 minutes against a team of the quality of Brazil. We might lose, but then we are going to lose playing an attacking, forward game, and trying to win.”

The current, young Brazil side is packed with talent. A deadly attack is led by Real Madrid’s £80-million signing, Kaka, Manchester City’s Robinho and Sevilla striker Luis Fabiano. Their defence is marshalled by Inter Milan right-back Maicon and captain Lucio.

Bafana might have been written off as no-hopers. But the reality of the situation is that South Africa are one match away from the Confed final, no matter who their semi-final opposition may be.

Madiba Magic, home advantage and vuvuzela’s aside, nothing can inspire a team more than the call of destiny.

Kickoff: 8.30 pm — live on SABC1 and SuperSport 3.

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