Colombia an ideal test for Bafana

2010-05-27 00:00

WITH the SA Football Association announcing last night that tickets for Bafana’s World Cup warm-up match against Colombia at Soccer City tonight have been sold out, the game is shaping up as ideal preparation for the hosts’ opener against Mexico at the same venue on June 11.

So far South Africa’s warm-up matches have been encouraging, including the 4-0 win over Thailand and 1-1 draw against 39th-ranked Bulgaria at Orlando Stadium on Monday. Tonight Bafana will be given another good workout by the Colombians, who are ranked four places above Bulgaria at 35th.

Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira originally scheduled South Africa’s final warm-up, against Denmark on June 5, at Soccer City to give the team a chance to sample the atmosphere at the venue of the World Cup opening game, but the match was moved to Loftus.

With 55 000 tickets sold for tonight’s game, the South Africans are about to get a taste of what to expect when they walk out of the ­tunnel alongside Mexico on to the pitch of the cavernous 2010 final venue.

And in South Americans Colombia, Bafana will have a markedly closer opponent in style of play to Central Americans Mexico than the Bulgarians.

Against the eastern Europeans, Parreira began with the same local-based line-up that took the field against Thailand and added foreign-based players Aaron Mokoena, Kagisho Dikgacoi and Tsepo Masilela in the second half.

Given the weak nature of the Guatemalan team the coach has had to settle for in Bafana’s remaining warm-up on May 31 before naming his final 23-man squad, Parreira might be forced to field a side tonight close to his planned starting line-up for the opener.

Steven Pienaar has been rested on his return to the squad and did not play against Bulgaria, but seems likely to start.

The Everton midfielder said Bafana are hoping for another testing game against the Colombians.

“As an individual I have always believed in myself, and I hope in the national team I will carry on the way I finished the season at my club,” Pienaar said. “I know a few players of Colombia and it’s going to be a big test for us, but I think the closer we get to the World Cup the better we play the likes of Colombia.

“They are very strong and have good players, and also the kind of football they play is South American, more like the Mexican way. So come June 11 we will be prepared, and we will play our kind of football, so we are not so worried about Mexico at the moment.”

Pienaar’s comments at a press conference in Johannesburg yesterday summed up the growing confidence in the Bafana squad.

He said, “I rate our chances of doing well in the tournament very highly; in fact, I am very confident that we will go further than the second round.

“We are definitely ready to go further because the confidence is there, the spirit is there and I believe we will do well.

“The team has been doing well and I have been following their progress since they started with the training camps in Durban, Brazil and Germany, because I am part and parcel of the team even though I was not there.”

Striker Benni McCarthy is also due to get a chance to prove himself tonight, and show how far his physical condition has progressed under the care of fitness trainer Francesco Gonzalez.

For Parreira, a pleasant headache has arisen in central midfield where the emergence of Lamontville Golden Arrows’ Thanduyise Khuboni as a potentially bright star of the future has added to the competition.

Kaizer Chiefs’ Reneilwe Letsholonyane has also impressed in the middle of the park, and Fulham’s Kagisho Dikgacoi and Russian-based Macbeth Sibaya have found themselves fighting tooth and nail for their places.

Kickoff: 8.35 pm – live on SABC1

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