‘I’m not going to defend’

2010-10-09 00:00

A STEVEN Pienaar-less Bafana Bafana will undergo an examination of character, and coach Pitso Mosimane faces his own toughest test yet as head coach when the national team meet Sierra Leone in their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Freetown tomorrow evening.

After a lengthy trip, Bafana will need to settle down on a narrow and potentially sticky pitch that will limit their expansive game, and attempt to stamp their authority on a Sierra Leone team buoyant from their opening 1-1 draw away against Egypt in Cairo.

The South Africans top the group after their 2-0 victory against Niger in Nelspruit last month.

Sierra Leone’s remarkable result in Cairo has upset the applecart somewhat in Group G. It comes as a potential boost to South Africa’s chances of correcting their failure to qualify for the last Nations Cup by going through to the 2012 finals in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

Bafana will aim to beat the “weaker” teams in the group, Niger and Sierra Leone, home and away.

A defeat of Egypt, too, in Johannesburg in the South Africans’ next fixture after tomorrow’s match will leave Bafana in a very strong position. Bafana will face Egypt in March next year.

The South Africans would be frustrated with a draw from tomorrow’s game in Freetown, even though they have already had experience of the difficulty of the venue when Bafana lost 1-0 to Sierra Leone there under Joel Santana in 2008.

A win is first prize, and, as Mosimane said this week, if South Africa want to begin achieving results in Africa again, they have to begin to assert themselves like heavyweights. The time for excuses about trying conditions is over, the coach has emphasised — Mosimane wants results.

The coach said he will wait to see the state of the pitch before settling on a final line-up, but that whatever the conditions in rainy-season Sierra Leone, Bafana will go out to attack.

“I will not make many changes to the side that beat Niger,” the coach said. “I hope to play our normal passing game, which is our strength, but I will have to see what the pitch offers when we get to Freetown.

“I will still play two strikers; in fact I will play three if that is what it takes to get a result. I am not going to defend.”

Mosimane has identified experienced battlers MacBeth Sibaya and captain Aaron Mokoena as the men to lead less hardened playmakers such as Siphiwe Tshabalala.

Teko Modise, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Andile Jali, Thanduyise Khuboni and Surprise Moriri are all options to fill the hole left by the injured Pienaar in midfield.

The two strikers Mosimane has in mind are the goal-scorers from the opener against Niger, Katlego Mphela and Bernard Parker.

Mphela said that while it might be safer to play one striker in an away game, playing two is a risk Bafana are “prepared to take”.

With 18 goals in 37 internationals, the Sundowns striker is one of the main differences between Mosimane’s team and Santana’s, who had to rely on the ineffective Terror Fanteni as a lone striker.

Other notable improvements come in the departments of confidence — Santana’s troubled side had practically none, and the weight of expectation of being World Cup hosts on their shoulders, to boot — and experience. This Bafana side have partaken in a Confederations Cup and World Cup as hosts, and competed on an equal footing with top-class sides in both.

In 2008, an inability to score goals resulted in the defeat in Freetown and a return 0-0 draw in Tshwane that put paid to South Africa’s qualification chances. This time Bafana will be aiming to breach the west Africans’ defence and get a crucial result.

 

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Tomorrow:

Kickoff 6.30 pm — live on SABC1

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