Walters’ World Cup chances improve after Baron’s bomb

2010-04-08 00:00

IN a case of one man’s devastating misfortune being another’s opportunity, Maritzburg United goalkeeper Shu-aib Walters’s chances of making Bafana Bafana’s final World Cup squad have received a boost by SuperSport United counterpart Emille Baron being ruled out of the competition.

Walters said yesterday that United have received a letter confirming the goalkeeper will be part of the Bafana squad to be announced today that will travel for a second month-long training camp in Germany. The squad leaves on Monday.

Baron’s shoulder injury, which saw Walters called up halfway through Bafana’s training camp in Brazil, was supposed to keep the SuperSport keeper out for a month. But SuperSport announced on Monday that Baron will need an operation, ruling him out of the World Cup.

With Arminia Bielefeld’s Rowen Fernandez also out injured, reportedly until just before the World Cup, Walters now stands a much-improved chance of being included as the third-choice goalkeeper in Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira’s final World Cup 23.

“I obviously don’t know whether to be happy, or to be sad for Emille,” said Walters, who returned from Brazil this week.

“I know what a big disappointment it would have been for him – a World Cup on home soil is a once in a lifetime opportunity. But I also know that it does make my chances a lot stronger now. A lot will depend on when Rowen comes back.

“With Emille definitely out it is between four of us [Itumeleng Khune, Moeneeb Josephs, Fernandez and Walters] for the four goalkeepers’ places at the World Cup.”

Walters said his experience in the Bafana camp, where the South Africans trained at the Granja Comary facility of the Brazil national team, was very positive.

“At the start my chest was burning and I was struggling with the time difference. But as I continued I got to a similar level as the other players.

“The big positive I picked up on was the mental strength of the players. Parreira said that he was there to look at the attitude of the players and how they reacted in the trainings.

“The opposition we played when I was there was quite poor, but this was all part of getting the right combinations together and building the confidence of our strikers.

“I think the camp was worthwhile. There might only be about 15 players of the 29 who went to Brazil who make the final squad, but if a major player gets injured then there are players who Parreira has been able to assess for a whole month, and you can’t do that with a one-off international.”

Bafana lost one training game out of eight against Brazilian first division teams and drew 1-1 against Paraguay in a friendly in Asuncion, the first time South Africa have not lost away since 2008.

“We started pretty shakily [against Paraguay] partly because of confidence and a bumpy pitch,” Walters said. “In the second half the coach made some changes and we created good chances and fought back from 1-0 down to a draw.

“Paraguay were missing a lot of players but they were stiff opposition, and we were also missing a lot of our foreign-based players. I think the result shows we are heading in the right direction.”

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