Friday, November 14, 2008

South Africa Coach: We're Almost There

South Africa national team coach Joel Santana says his side is almost to the point where they'll do reasonably well in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Santana's been the focal point of criticism the past few months as Bafana Bafana have struggled, failing to qualify for the 2010 African Cup of Nations.

But the team's been playing better of late and the Brazilian coach is encouraged by what he's seen.

“At this stage we are staying calm. We have the definition of what we want for 2010; we are actually halfway to what we want,” said Santana.

The Brazilian coach aired his sentiments after the announcement of the team to play against Cameroon in the Mandela Challenge next week in Rustenburg, South Africa.

“I now know the players that are playing for me and I know how to make them approach the game. This is why we have tried to preserve the team from the past three games and have gone for the in-form players.

“Other players have been left out of the team because they are injured, like Bryce Moon, while others have to stay on with their teams,” says Santana.

“This job is just like life; is all about learning. We heard and we have seen things during this period since I arrived here and what I say is that I feel very secure.

“This job always has its ups and downs, but you have to live by the results that you get. Though we understand that people have this anxiety of wanting to have a great national team that wins all the games, you have to be patient. But we just need to be united going into the New Year.

“You should know that this is not just a coach’s job, but involves all of us from the media which I now know how it operates and sees things at times, the fans and the players.

“I don’t have regrets about what has happened in the past since I arrived here and took over from Carlos Parreira. I am satisfied and happy to be here. The Confederations Cup is a big challenge for us, but the World Cup is the main goal that we are prioritising and working towards.

“We hope to close the year with one more win ahead of the Confederations Cup next year. Each game is important for us and this match in particular is crucial in that we are honoring a great man and it will be a nice birthday gift for me if we win as I want to celebrate my birthday on December 25 with a smile,” he says.

The Brazilian says he is aware of the players that the West Africans will bring for next week’s match.

“We know the players just like you do, and they are quality players who play in European leagues. But we need this kind of test and we have watched their recent games.”

Santana says his wish is to make it four wins in a row when he faces Cameroon

“This is an important tournament in the history of this country, honoring one of the biggest legends of our time,” says Santana.

“The best way to honor Nelson Mandela would be to win this game. We will be playing at home and we will be expecting a lift from our supporters. Our ambition is to make it four wins in a row.”

MY POV: Santana's challenges have only just begun. The team's playing better, though. Let's wish him luck in the Mandela Challenge and take it from there ...

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