Will Benni Play?

2008-09-01 00:00

JOHANNESBURG — The Bafana Bafana camp were given a major scare after arriving in Port Elizabeth for their crunch 2010 African Nations Cup qualifier against Nigeria when it was learned that “bad boy” Benni McCarthy is doubtful for Saturday’s showdown at the ERPU Stadium with a groin injury.

Bafana head coach Joel Santana took the news of the Blackburn Rovers striker’s injury calmly, saying that the injury will be assessed when McCarthy arrives to join his national team-mates today to prepare for the Super Eagles showdown.

“I cannot say more until our doctors have had a look and examined the injury as to how serious it is or if it will keep him out of the game or not,” said the coach.

Santana badly needs McCarthy’s experience against the Super Eagles in what is a make or break game for Bafana if they hope to reach the next round of qualification for the 2010 showpiece to be staged in Angola.

McCarthy made his peace with the South African Football Association and Santana when he played a star role in the 2-2 draw in a friendly against Australia last month.

McCarthy turned his back on his country in June by opting to spend his off-season with his family and not playing in the Afcon Group Four qualifiers.

McCarthy (30) had a hand in both goals against the Socceroos and Santana is keen to pair him with another veteran Sibusiso Zuma.

But, McCarthy or no McCarthy, Santana declared war on Nigeria. “We have to fight and fight hard against Nigeria. It will be a war on Saturday.

“I respect Nigeria, but do not fear them. They have shown us respect by bringing their best squad to play us and we will adopt a positive attacking approach to the game.”

But even if Bafana win, they will not be sure of making it to the next round, as the result of the other Group Four match in Freetown between an improved Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea could decide Bafana’s fate. A win for the Leone Stars could end South Africa’s hopes of a second crack at reaching Angola.

But Santana was optimistic his players can do the business against the star-studded Super Eagles.

He is looking for his players to continue against Nigeria where they left off against the Socceroos.

Meanwhile, Bafana media manager Sifiso Cele said that the controversy over the so-called “cabbage patch” pitch is closed.

“Santana rightly points out that it will be the same for both teams and we have to adapt. We will not be commenting further on the pitch as it takes away our focus on the game … ,” he said.

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