‘Bafana still need to improve’

2010-05-31 00:00

CARLOS Alberto Parreira has said that he might field something close to his starting line-up in Bafana Bafana’s friendly World Cup warm-up match against Guatemala at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane tonight, and if that happens, the 114th ranked central Americans are likely to be little more than cannon fodder for the keyed-up South Africans.

Parreira turned down an opportunity to play 74th-ranked Panama for South Africa’s penultimate warm-up, holding out for a better team.

However, even the coach’s international network of connections could not help him to line up tougher opponents, and Guatemala will have to suffice.

And barring complacency or an off day, a South African team growing in confidence with less than two weeks to their World Cup kickoff against Mexico at Soccer City on June 11, should make light work of the Guatemalans.

After two tough workouts in a 1-1 draw against Bulgaria and 2-1 victory over Colombia, the players will have some respite and breathing space to express themselves. And with his defence not likely to be overly tested, Parreira is sure to want Bafana to work on their attacking combinations, and on attaining a greater level of penetration than they have in the warm-ups so far.

The coach is due to announce his final 23-man squad on the day of the Fifa deadline tomorrow, and might also give a run to some fringe players to have a last chance to impress.

Perhaps of some concern for Bafana is that Mexico — unlike the World Cup hosts, who failed to land tougher opponents such as Argentina, Italy and Spain in their buildup — have already played top-notch friendlies in the past two weeks, losing 3-1 away to England and 2-1 in the Netherlands. While the South Africans’ improvement since training camps in Brazil and Germany has been easily distinguishable, Mexico’s relatively impressive performances in two defeats showed that more is still needed.

That much was admitted by Bafana’s key midfielder, Steven Pienaar, on his personal website.

“Yes, the result was important, but our performance is still short of the level that we’d like to be at,” Pienaar said of the Colombia victory, where all three goals were scored from the penalty spot.

“Winning is always good for confidence levels, but we need to improve — the game against Denmark is likely to be the most accurate gauge of our state of readiness to tackle the world’s best.”

Bafana play their final warm-up against the World Cup-qualified Danes in Atteridgeville on June 5.

A huge milestone for captain Aaron Mokoena will be reached tonight as he becomes Bafana’s first player to obtain 100 caps.

“It is unbelievable,” Mokoena said. “When I made my debut against Botswana on February 20, 1999, I never dreamed I would reach this milestone.

“But I owe so much to so many people who have helped my career.”

Parreira paid Mokoena, so often a target of criticism from South African fans, a high compliment.

“Winning 100 caps is no fluke,” the coach said.

“There are few players in world soccer who reach this milestone.

“Aaron is one of those special breed of players who are committed, dedicated and have great character.

“He is an exceptional leader and will be a huge asset to Bafana in the World Cup.”

The Bafana vs Guatemala game,which kicks off at 8.35 pm, will be broadcast live on SABC1.

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