Santana grateful for some respite

2008-10-01 00:00

JOHANNESBURG — Joel Santana admitted he will be sleeping a lot easier after his Bafana side made up of PSL players beat Malawi 3-0 in a friendly international played at the Germiston Stadium on Tuesday night.

Santana changed his system and kept his promise of giving all his players a run against the Flames, who were well and truly doused.

At last Bafana played a more open game. Santana ditched his ultra-conservative formation where he previously employed two defensive midfielders and one striker. Against Malawi, he utilised a conventional 4-4-2, with Bernard Parker and Eleazar Rodgers leading the attack.

Said a smiling Santana afterwards: “I will have good dreams for a change”. That statement underlined the nightmare he has been living since he took charge in June. Before Tuesday, Bafana had won only once and drawn twice under the Brazilian.

The knives were out for Santana and had Bafana lost against a modest Malawian side that offered not a great deal of resistance, his dreams would have turned into a serious nightmare.

But two goals from Parker and a great injury time strike from Daine Klate put the smiles back on the faces of a big crowd of about 6 000 fans.

But Santana is likely to bring back his experienced Europe-based players for next weekend’s final 2010 African Nations Cup qualifier away to Equatorial Guinea.

All that is at stake here is whether Bafana or Equatorial Guinea will finish bottom of Group Four.

Santana insists he is going to end with a win. He said he had not decided on his squad, which will be named later this week.

He said: “I was impressed by a lot of players. It would be unfair for me to single anyone out from tonight’s squad to play against Equatorial Guinea. I have not had time to make a decision. I will meet with my assistants, Pitso Mosimane and Jairo Leal, and watch the DVD of this game before naming my squad.”

Santana was impressed by Thanda Royal Zulu forward Parker, who he described as “quick and able to pass the ball and calm under pressure”. Parker has scored four goals in the league and now appears to have shown he is ready to step up to the international stage with two well-taken goals.

Santana was happy with debutant central defender Morgan Gould of SuperSport United. He said Gould reminded him of himself when he played in Brazil. “Gould has a tremendous personality on the field and he is a leader at the back. In him, I have found another player to add to my squad.”

Santana was also pleased with all the players, and said: “I wanted to see Lefa [Tsutsulupa], Teko [Modise], Parker and Siphiwe [Tshabalala] combine again and they did superbly. They all played well.”

He stressed that while the win was important for morale, he was more pleased with the team’s overall performance. “We played good football. This is the type of soccer that the fans want to see. It was fantastic seeing the cheers and reaction of the crowd tonight. It shows we are on the right track and the players are learning my tactics.”

He also stressed it was the players who shone and deserved credit. “The players showed good tactical discipline by following my game plan and we got our rewards.”

Modise, who was captain on the night, summed up when he said: “It was a big win for us. There are a lot of big smiles in the dressing room right now. This win has done wonders for morale and shows we can score goals. Our biggest problem going into the game was the fact we had not been scoring, we seem to have rectified that and the spirits are sky high.”

It was Modise’s second game as captain and he now has two wins out of two as skipper. He led Bafana to a 2-1 win over Zimbabwe in March.

Added the Orlando Pirates star: “It was good to see the players enjoy themselves, score goals and get a solid win under our belts. We now need to take this spirit and form into our next matches and build on it.”

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