Mokoena ready to answer the call in midfield

2008-01-15 00:00

BAFANA Bafana captain Aaron Mokoena says it was not easy adapting to a new midfield anchor role in the 2-0 friendly victory against Mozambique on Sunday, despite having mostly filled that position for his club, Blackburn Rovers.

Mokoena, who has played solely as a central defender since becoming Bafana’s youngest-ever international in 1999, impressed in defensive midfield in the warm-up game for the African Nations Cup finals, though Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said the move is still only an experiment.

The coach hinted that he might try his skipper in the position again in South Africa’s second warm-up against Botswana tomorrow evening (6 pm), and Parreira will probably only make up his mind after evaluating that performance, whether Mokoena will play in midfield at the Nations Cup, which starts this Sunday.

“To be honest it wasn’t easy,” Mokoena admitted of his new role.

“It was my first time playing in that position in the national team, and it is a lot different to what we do at Blackburn.

“The coach explained exactly what he wanted.

“I had to play from instructions and try to organise from the midfield.

“At the back we have two experienced players in Benson [Mhlongo] and Nasief [Morris], and with [Sibusiso] Zuma up-front we really have a core, and that is exactly what we needed.

“Playing with Teko Modise and players who can play in front of me makes it easier. I’m there to support them and make sure I cut out the balls towards our back four. I enjoyed it.”

Mokoena agreed with Parreira’s view of the game as a worthwhile “loosener”, after Bafana concentrated on fitness training last week.

Parreira said: “After 16 training sessions in eight days of hard preparation, of course we expected that the players would feel the heat of the sessions.

“That was why we asked for two warm-up games, for the players to be loosening up by the time that we reach the Nations Cup.”

Mokoena’s view was: “For us the game was to get a win, and also, like the coach said, a bit of loosening up. We still have a long way to go.

“We really needed the game and now I think it will be easier for the coach to come up with the personalities for each position and the formation he thinks is good for us.

“It’s been a tough, tough week. The coach and his technical team have tried to get us into top condition. Against Mozambique we had to transfer a lot of information and I think the players did well.

“The most important thing was to get organised, and to be really compact and I think we did that quite well.”

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