Monday, October 20, 2008

Is South Africa Back?


South Africa has been under the microscope for many reasons these past few years.

Certainly the eyes of the football world are focused on the nation as they prepare for the 2010 World Cup. But one aspect of South Africa's build up to 2010 has lagged behind: the national football team.

Having been eliminated from the 2010 African Cup of Nations in Angola, the team is now squarely focused on putting up a good performance at the World Cup.

Optimism is the word of the day in South Africa after Bafana Bafana won their third consecutive match on Wednesday night - a 2-1 win over Ghana.

While a friendly victory over a mainly second-string Ghana team should not allow the team to get carried away, the win has re-instilled a feel-good factor in the South Africans.

Added to earlier victories against Equatorial Guinea and Malawi, the run of results has certainly eased the pressure on Brazilian coach Joel Santana (pictured above) - for now.

A clearly relieved Santana revealed after the match that he had now identified 70 percent of the squad that will play at next year's Confederations Cup.

He singled out striker Bernard Parker and Russian-based central defender Matthew Booth, who returned to the side after a three-year absence.

"This is a very important player," Santana said of 22-year-old Parker whose second-half winner against Ghana was his third international goal in as many games.

"He is taking advantage of his opportunities. He has a good way of doing things and is disciplined. It is good for us and for the team," Santana said of the current leading goalscorer in South Africa's top division who will be spending the next week on trial with Swedish side Malmo.

"More important than the win is that we are on the right track. A lot of the players are getting better and we are starting to put together a team for the Confederations Cup," the Brazilian said.

Assistant coach Pitso Mosimane was also clearly happy with the team's progress.

"The boys are stroking the ball around very nicely and they are growing in confidence with every game. Irrespective of what team you beat, winning creates a healthy atmosphere in the camp," he said.

Mosimane also paid tribute to striker Benni McCarthy in the team's resurgence.

"He has such a positive impact on the team. Whenever he's around you can see the spirits lifting. The players, particularly the younger ones, all look up to him because of his class and what he has already achieved. The fact that we performed so badly in the four Nations Cup qualifiers he wasn't around for tells a story."

With friendlies against Namibia and Cameroon in November, as well as high-profile ties against Germany, Holland, Portugal, Chile and the Confederations Cup penciled in for 2009, Bafana Bafana will be looking to improve further before they host the biggest showpiece in the game.

MY POV: South Africa really wants the Bafana Bafana to do well in the 2010 World Cup. While their wins have been against minnows and second-rate squads, one can only hope the nation's resurgent optimism in the team gives new life to their play.

10 comments:

Masonge Ngcaba said...

good to see a positive from you regarding South Africa. I browse through your blog every week and there is usually something about crime rate or our "incapability" to host a big event.

while Bafana are still country miles away from being competitive against the big boys, we have to start by beating the little boys first.

Cesar said...

Masonge, thanks for the comment!

Let's hope SA puts together some impressive performances in their next few friendlies.
We all hope SA has an impressive World Cup campaign and manages to whip up a frenzy during the Cup!

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