Pienaar admits to fatigue

2010-06-15 00:00

BAFANA Bafana midfielder Steven Pienaar has admitted to feeling some fatigue following a gruelling English Premiership season for Everton, ahead of the national team’s second World Cup game against Uruguay at Loftus tomorrow.

Pienaar, Bafana’s one truly world-class player and the midfield playmaker the team is built around, was not at his best in his last two games, a 1-0 warm-up win against Denmark a fortnight ago and Friday’s World Cup opening 1-1 draw against Mexico at Soccer City.

The playmaker, whose game revolves around a high-tempo, high-workrate, physical approach, played 26 games in the last six months and 42 in all for Everton last season.

Speaking after Bafana’s training session at Sturrock Park on the Wits University campus yesterday, Pienaar admitted: “I must say the guys have worked really hard for the last three months. They’re really physically fit.

“And for me, of course, in the last six months I’ve played 26 games, so my legs are getting tired. But my mind and my heart are there and I’ll push myself until I can’t go any more.”

Pienaar said the intensity of the world’s richest league in England is what could have accounted for a number of key injuries that have depleted World Cup squads, such as Ghana’s Michael Essien and Michael Ballack of Germany.

“I think it’s normal [for a Premiership player] because the league demands a lot and it’s high intensity. Coming back from a tough season like that it’s normal that sometimes the body just gives in,” the midfielder said.

“But if you’re mentally prepared and want to go for it you can’t hold it against you body if you get a muscle tear.”

The Everton player was asked how he could be more influential tactically against the 16th-ranked Uruguayans.

“For me it’s to get more involved in the game. I know sometimes you get marked quite tight and that’s demanding — you have to move a lot,” Pienaar said.

“But as a team I think we just need to play our own game and don’t start nervously.

“It’s important that we don’t lose, because the losing team is going to have to play catch-up in the group’s last game.”

Pienaar warned Bafana to expect a bruising clash against Uruguay.

“I know the Uruguayan team is really physical and well organised at the back. They play with three centre-backs and they’ve got good attacking players too, so we know it’s going to be a tough game for us.”

Right-back Siboniso Gaxa said that, despite Bafana’s shaky start against Mexico, where they were unlucky not to go into the break 2-0 down, the team never doubted it’s ability to come back in the second half.

Bafana took the lead through the goal of the tournament so far by Siphiwe Tshabalala in the 55th minute, but conceded a soft equaliser by Mexico captain Rafael Marquez with 11 minutes left.

“Towards the end of the first half we started knocking the ball around and creating those small chances,” Gaxa said.

“At half time we said, ‘We can do this, and we need to believe in ourselves. This is our first World Cup so we must go there and show them. Try and be more committed, play the ball on the ground and move forward’.

“And that’s what we did in the second half, and that really boosted our confidence. We know that as long as we play the ball on the ground and run into spaces there’s more that we can do.”

Gaxa said South Africa’s tactic tomorrow night will be to exploit the Uruguayan flanks.

“We’ve seen that they use wing-backs — there’s no full-backs and just one person out wide on each side.

“For us, we have to use the flanks because there’s too many people going inside. We have to use our full-backs and our wing players to attack them.

“We’ve been working on that and I hope that it’s going to work for us on Wednesday.”

Bafana’s match against Uruguay is at 8.30 pm. The other two Group A teams, France and Mexico, meet in Polokwane on Thursday, also at 8.30 pm.

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