SA prepares for tough friendlies

2009-09-02 00:00

JOHANNESBURG — “It is time to get serious.”

That was the view of Bafana Bafana anchorman Benson Mhlongo yesterday before the national squad jetted off to Leverkusen to play the threetime world champions in a friendly international on Saturday night. Kick-off is at 8.45 pm.

“There is no such thing as a friendly when it comes to playing against Germany,” Mhlongo said.

“We as players all know what a big test awaits us and we have to be on our toes.

“We proved we can hold our own with some of the best teams in the world during the Confederations Cup. Now we need to take that a step further and surprise Germany and Ireland when we play them next week. But to do that we have to start picking up the pace.”

After playing Germany, South Africa travel to Limerick where they play a strong Irish side next Tuesday night.

Mhlongo was part of the successful Confederations Cup squad that finished fourth and almost stunned then No 1-ranked Spain in the playoff for third and fourth place.

Spain needed an extra time goal to beat Bafana 3-2 and secure the bronze medal.

After surprising the nation with inspired performances against the likes of Spain and Brazil in the Confederations Cup, Bafana slumped to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Serbia at the Super Stadium last month in a friendly to start head coach Joel Santana’s final preparation phase ahead of next June’s World Cup finals.

“We learnt a lot from Serbia. We more than held our own against them in the first half and if we had we taken our chances the end result might have been different,” said Orlando Pirates captain Mhlongo.

“But the Serbians surprised us in the second half and we have gained a lot from that painful experience.”

Mhlongo said the biggest lesson they learned was that in international soccer goal-scoring chances do not come about easily and when they do strikers and midfielders need to capitalise.

“We got on top of Serbia in the first have but failed to hammer home our advantage …,” he said.

Mhlongo added that the game against Germany is a big match for Bafana and would play a key role in helping the players gain experience and prepare for the 2010 World Cup.

“We need to start winning now and build up a winning momentum ahead of the World Cup,” he said.

“We showed in the Confederations Cup that we more than have the ability to rise to the occasion and must treat Germany as we did Spain and Brazil.”

Mhlongo is looking forward to playing against the likes of German skipper and Chelsea midfield star Michael Ballack, plus free-scoring strikers Lucas Podolski and Miroslav Klose.

“We have nothing to fear as we can only improve by playing against the best players in the world.” — Sapa.

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