Santana ‘not afraid for his job’

2009-10-12 00:00

DESPITE another unconvincing performance and seventh defeat in eight matches with their 1-0 loss against Norway in Oslo on Saturday, Bafana Bafana coach Joel Santana maintains he is not afraid of losing his job.

Speculation has been that should Bafana not show an improvement in performance and form in their two friendly internationals in four days, against Norway and then tomorrow’s match against Iceland in Reykjavik, Santana might get the boot.

Certainly it seems that the new ruling clique at Safa, headed by new president Kirten Nematandani, whose first task was to lay down the law to Santana soon after being elected, will at least review matters concerning the national team should Bafana put in a similarly unconvincing display against Iceland.

While relatively well-structured again, South Africa had nervous moments in defence and could have conceded more goals. But again it was a toothless attack, with the 2010 hosts barely managing a shot in anger on goal, that was the area of most concern.

And if Safa are going to make a coaching change then it must surely be within the next two weeks, given the proximity to 2010.

Much might depend on the report to Safa of former Bafana coaches Clive Barker and Jomo Sono, and SuperSport United boss Gavin Hunt, who have been appointed by Nematandani to assess South Africa’s performance under Santana.

The coach’s inability to learn fluent English in more than a year in the job, lack of communication with local coaches and a defensive attitude under criticism have not made him a popular appointment. This is exacerbated by a lack of experience at international level and seemingly overly-defensive approach on the field.

Despite this, Santana said in the post-match press conference on Saturday he still feels safe in his job.

“I feel I have the full support of this group of players. I do not have any problems with any player — my players stick together for me,” the Brazilian said.

Despite a disappointingly weak performance from Bafana, Santana said he felt the team had played well.

“We played badly in the first half, but in the second half I think we played a little better. Unfortunately Norway scored after a flick-on from a long throw-in.

“After the goal, we tried to attack and push the team up the field, but unfortunately we weren’t able to score.”

The coach blamed the state of the pitch in Oslo for Bafana’s inability to get their passing game going.

“This is no excuse, but some of my best technical players came to me and complained about the grass. It was really short and really wet, and the grass was also hard. It was difficult to play the ball out there.”

Looking towards the Iceland game, which the press have speculated could be Santana’s last, he reiterated: “I am not afraid. We have to train and I look forward to friendlies against Iceland, Japan and Jamaica.

“There are still several months of preparations before the World Cup. I am confident this team will perform — I am optimistic.

“In my head, I know 16 or 17 players that I want in my squad for the 2010 World Cup. However, I need 23 players. In the upcoming games, I will try three, four, five new players ... maybe.”

Carlos Alberto Parreira, whom Santana replaced in April last year after Parreira quit citing his wife’s health in Brazil, has been mooted as a potential replacement.

Sapa reports that Norway were all over Bafana in a one-sided first half on Saturday in which the South Africans did not have a single shot at Norwegian goalkeeper Jon Knudsen, and the busiest Bafana player was their own ’keeper Moeneeb Josephs.

Norway got their deserved breakthrough three minutes after half time when the ball-watching Bafana defenders were helpless to prevent Kjetil Waehler from heading home a long throw-in.

Knudsen made his first real save in the 81st minute.

2010 qualifying round-up, page 19

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