The time to impress is now

2010-03-03 00:00

IT may seem a relatively innocuous friendly with not much to play for other than to celebrate 100 days to the World Cup, but for the Bafana Bafana players, tonight’s match against Namibia at Moses Mabhida Stadium adds up to much more than that.

To begin with, Bafana depart for Brazil in just under a week for a month-long training camp, and the reality is that anyone not named in that squad has almost no chance of being in the final World Cup 24.

With the Premier Soccer League ending this weekend, there will be just two cup competitions left to play domestically. It would take a super­human performance in these for any player to force his way into the squad that Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira has already been working with.

Tonight’s friendly, too, is the second-last scheduled for Bafana apart from meeting Denmark in a friendly at Soccer City a week before playing the June 11 World Cup opening match against Mexico.

Efforts are being made to arrange a game against Paraguay in Brazil and, depending on progress in the training camps in South America and then Germany, Parreira might want to secure a game or two more. But for any fringe player, this still makes for precious little game time to try to clinch a World Cup place.

So after years of hard work for the likes of Bryce Moon, Bradley Carnell, Bevan Fransman, Lance Davids, Andile Jali, Daine Klate, Siyabonga Sangweni and Thanduyise Khuboni, the time is now.

Unfortunately, Namibia, last-minute replacements for Chile, are perhaps not the best opponents against whom to test the strength of players who will be expected to perform in a World Cup. But they will have to do.

Parreira revealed his likely starting line-up in a training session at Moses Mabhida yesterday afternoon that was graced by the star quality of legendary ex-Brazil and Inter Milan right-back Cafu, who trained with Bafana for 10 minutes.

Cafu was in South Africa for yesterday’s 100-days-to-2010 celebrations, and to promote the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Surprisingly, Belgian-based youngster Anele Ngcongca is set to start at right-back ahead of Moon. Greece-based Moon, though, has been brought back to Bafana to be assessed as a potential World Cup squad member and is certain to be given at least 45 minutes off the bench.

If Moon does make the final squad, he still faces a challenge displacing incumbent right-back Siboniso Gaxa.

Asked about this yesterday, the Pietermaritzburg-bred player said: “I’ll do my best for my country and I’ll do my best for myself. You come across these challenges all over in football. You’ve got to fight and it is a battle you have to overcome.”

Maccabi Netanya’s Fransman is set to be fielded in central defence next to Lamontville Golden Arrows’s Sangweni. Also starting will be another foreign-based player recalled from the cold, Hansa Rostock left-back Carnell.

Davids and Khuboni are set to be given a chance to impress in central midfield, in between World Cup certainties Teko Modise and Siphiwe Tshabalala out wide. Skilful forward Lebohang Mokoena will partner Mamelodi Sundowns team-mate Katlego Mphela up-front.

Namibia, coached by Belgian Tom Saintfiet, have a few useful players who could give Bafana some nervous moments.

The South Africans will be aware of the danger posed by slippery forward Rudolf Bester, who has been in sparkling form for Maritzburg United in his first PSL season.

Arguably, the Namibians’ most successful export has been 29-year-old defensive midfielder Razundara Tjikuzu, who has played in the Bundesliga and currently turns out for Turkish side Diyarbakırspor.

The Brave Warriors, 2008 African Nations Cup qualifiers, are likely to employ a spoiling approach and seek a draw against the World Cup hosts.

Bafana are coming off a 6-2 thrashing of Swaziland and 3-0 defeat of Zimbabwe.

The Namibians are of a similar strength to Zimbabwe and South Africa will aim for a similar scoreline tonight.


BRYCE MOON on maybe making squad

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