Friendly against Chile could be Santana’s ‘Paraguay’

2009-02-10 00:00

FOR Bafana Bafana coach Joel Santana, tonight’s friendly against a classy Chile in Polokwane could be a real turning point in his task of building a competitive team for the 2010 World Cup.

Santana appears to have reached a similar point to where predecessor Carlos Alberto Parreira was just after returning from the 2008 African Nations Cup in Ghana.

Despite South Africa’s first-round exit, Parreira’s vision for Bafana was becoming clear. The coach had introduced a new generation of players, such as Bryce Moon, Teko Modise, Tsepo Masilela and Kagiso Dikgacoi, who had complemented the established veterans.

Bafana had threatened to perform without quite clicking in Ghana, but in the first match on their return destroyed Paraguay 3-0 in a friendly in Pretoria. That turned out to be Parreira’s last match in charge.

Santana, after his rocky start where a Bafana side reeling from Parreira’s shock departure failed to qualify for the 2010 Nations Cup in Angola, has seen things come together slowly and has won five matches in succession.

He, too, has made a few introductions, including goal-scoring striker Bernard Parker, and with a full-strength squad available, apart from Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar, Santana might feel the stage is set for his Bafana to click tonight, much like Parreira’s did almost exactly 12 months ago.

Chile, ranked 30th in the world and currently fourth in the South American World Cup qualifying group, have brought a full-strength team with them.

This includes Villareal playmaker Matias Fernandez, the South American footballer of the year in 2006 at just 20; Real Sociedad goalkeeper Claudio Bravo; and Chile’s top scorer, Huberto Suazo.

Their players will be familiar to Brazilian Santana, who said Bafana have been watching DVDs of Chile’s recent games.

“From what we have seen so far, we are going to have a busy game,” the coach said. “They play an attacking game and will try and push us into our own half. We know that they are a disciplined and skilful side, who are also good at set pieces.

“They are going to throw everything at us and they have brought their full squad here. We will have to plan for them appropriately because this will be a tough game.

“But this is exactly the type of game we want because we need to be pushed to the limit and tested in all levels.”

Bafana have quick-footed midfielder Elrio van Heerden back from injury.

TV: Live on SABC1 from 8.30 pm

Possible Bafana line-up: Marlin, Gaxa, Morris, Mokoena (C), Masilela, Modise, Dikgacoi, Davids, Tshabalala, Parker, McCarthy

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