Matthew Booth back to face Super Eagles

2008-08-28 00:00

RUSSIAN-based central defender Matthew Booth has been included in the Bafana Bafana squad for their must-win African Nations Cup qualifier against Nigeria in Port Elizabeth next Sunday, and is likely to get a starting role.

Booth, last called up by Stuart Baxter for a Cosafa Cup match against Zambia in August 2005, and before that in 2002, is likely to fill in for suspended captain Aaron Mokoena against the Super Eagles.

The former Mamelodi Sundowns defender had dropped under the national team radar while playing for FC Rostov and Krylia Sovetov Samara in Russia since 2004. His return follows media pressure due to Bafana's problems in central defence.

Bafana coach Joel Santana has also included uncapped Orlando Pirates' defensive midfielder, Lebogang Mothibantwa. Former captain Mbulelo Mabizela has received his first call-up since 2006.

The presence of just three strikers - Benni McCarthy, Sibusiso Zuma and Surprise Moriri - will raise eyebrows for a match South Africa must go out and win.

Santana has retained left-backs Bradley Carnell, who did duty in this month's 2-2 friendly draw against Australia in London, and Innocent Mdledle, with Tsepo Masilela still out injured.

Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar, South Africa's most influential player this year, is also injured.

Bafana are in danger of not qualifying for the 2010 Nations Cup in Angola from Group Four, following away defeats to Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea, and a home draw against Sierra Leone in the month after Santana took the job.

"We have selected the best possible team for this game, which we hope will bring us the three points we need," Santana said after announcing the team yesterday. "We have tried to balance the team by bringing in a lot of experience as this is going to be a very difficult game."

He stressed that, win or lose, Bafana's focus remains building a team for the 2010 World Cup.

"A win against Nigeria will not mean we should get carried away. But it is as important a game as the one against Equatorial Guinea and all the friendly games that we still have to play, because we must not lose sight of the bigger picture, which is the 2010 World Cup.

"We must continue to build and find the best players to present a world-class team by 2010."

After at first persisting with a similar version of predecessor Carlos Alberto Parreira's 4-5-1 formation, Santana switched to a more conventional 4-4-2 against Australia, with reasonable success.

But just pretty soccer is not going to result in a victory against Olympic finalists Nigeria in an important qualifier. As usual, the brains trust of South African football have not made matters easier with their controversial choice of PE as the venue.

Bafana squad

Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs), Rowen Fernandez (Arminia Bielefeld, Germany)

Defenders: Matthew Booth (Krylya Sovetov, Russia), Bradley Carnell (Karlsruhe, Germany), Siboniso Gaxa (Mamelodi Sundowns), Mbulelo Mabizela (Sundowns), Bongani Khumalo (Supersport United), Bevan Fransman (Maccabi Netanya, Israel), Innocent Mdledle (Orlando Pirates), Bryce Moon (Panathinaikos, Greece), Nasief Morris (Recreativo de Huelva, Spain)

Midfielders: Lance Davids (Djurgardens, Sweden), Kagiso Dikgacoi (Lamontville Golden Arrows), Thulasizwe Mbuyane (Pirates), Teko Modise (Pirates), Lebogang Mothibantwa (Pirates), Siyabonga Nkosi (Arminia Bielefeld, Germany), Macbeth Sibaya (Rubin Kazan, Russia), Siphiwe Tshabalala (Chiefs), Lefa Tsutsulupa (Moroka Swallows)

Strikers: Benni McCarthy (Blackburn Rovers, England), Subusiso Zuma (Sundowns), Surprise Moriri (Sundowns)

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