Benni out to prove a point

2008-09-03 00:00

HE’S injury-clear, a little overweight, and a bit match-rusty, but yesterday it was that man Benedict McCarthy who was all the talk again ahead of Bafana Bafana’s must-win African Nations Cup qualifier against Nigeria on Saturday.

South Africa have to beat Nigeria for the first time in an official match at the Eastern Province Rugby Stadium to stand any chance of qualifying for Angola 2010. And McCarthy being passed fit to play against an injury-hit Super Eagles is a massive boost in that task.

All the cameras would have been focused on McCarthy as he took part in his first two training sessions at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University yesterday. Speaking to the media, the striker said he has recovered from a groin strain that was threatening to keep him out against Nigeria.

McCarthy has been used sparingly by Blackburn Rovers after picking up a slight groin injury in Bafana’s 2-2 friendly draw against Australia on August 19. He played for 10 minutes in the Premiership club’s 1-1 draw against Hull, and did manage the last half-hour of Rovers’ 4-1 defeat against West Ham just five days ago.

“I got injured against Australia and have largely rested for the last 15 days. I am a bit rusty, but believe me I will be fired up against Nigeria if I get on the field,” McCarthy told Sapa.

McCarthy might be overweight, but so was he against the Socceroos at Loftus Road in London, where he set up both goals.

“I do not take notice of talk about me being overweight and unfit. Come and watch me on Saturday, if the coach selects me.

“I want to play and prove my point and score a goal or two for my country. I have not been playing regularly at Rovers and may not be fully match-fit, but I am willing to play my heart out against Nigeria,” he said.

With Nigeria missing some key players — midfielder Jon Mikel Obi, strikers Nwankwu Kanu and Obafemi Martins and defender Danny Shittu — this could be Bafana’s best chance to beat the Super Eagles.

“Nigeria must not think they can come here and go home with a smile on their faces,” McCarthy said. “We all know how important this game is to the country. I know Nigeria are a class side, but we are at home and must win at all costs.”

The striker, whose controversial absence during Bafana’s first four matches in Group 4 played a major role in the team being in such a difficult situation, has committed himself to Bafana until the 2010 World Cup.

“I came out of retirement to play under Carlos Alberto Parreira because I believed he was going the right way forward,” he said.

“After talking to Santana in London it evolved that he shares the same views and visions as Parreira. I reckon Santana is on the right course to take Bafana forward and I am here as long as the country and coach wants me.”

While McCarthy’s contribution up-front will be crucial, it is in the midfield that the game will be won, where South Africa will hope for big performances from Kagisho Dikgacoi and Teko Modise.

McCarthy and Recreativo Huelva defender Nasief Morris were the last to join the squad on Tuesday night.

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