State of the National team

Friday, June 11, 2010

Durban - All eyes will be on the boys in blue and yellow this afternoon, as the nation waits anxiously to see how the national squad squares up against Mexico, when the first match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup gets underway.

The nation has thrown their full weight behind Bafana Bafana and as one poster very aptly captures it on a Johannesburg building: Its 49 million of us against 11 of them.

While Bafana Bafana have been criticised in the past for their failure to win matches convincingly, they have been making great strides recently and looking more together.

Two football fundis from South Africa's leading media houses assessed the state of the national team.

Kamlesh Gosai (KG) has written extensively on local football for over a decade for Independent Newspapers while David Brooke (DB), commercial manager for has been a sports journalist for over six years. BuaNews put a few questions to the two.

BuaNews: Where does Bafana Bafana's strength lie in their defence/goalkeeping/ and attack?

KG: Bafana's strength lies in attacking from midfield with Steven Pienaar leading the way. The Everton midfielder directs play from the midfield and supplies striker Katlego Mphela with the perfect delivery to score goals. This has been evident in the warm-up matches, especially against Guatemala in a match which they won 5-nil.

DB: Each department has its positives, although the biggest strength comes from the crowd. The support from the stands will be like an extra player on the field. Apart from that, team unity is another plus point. Being able to play as a unit, and to their strengths - which is based on skill, speed and ball retention - is vital.

BuaNews: What formation do you feel would work best for Bafana Bafana?

KG: 4-3-2-1

DB: 4-4-1-1 - Four defenders, four midfielders, and then a player such as Surprise Moriri being the link between the midfield and key striker Katlego Mphela. During the Confederations Cup, Bafana Bafana played in a tight unit - what brought about that?

KG: I believe that the home support played a massive part in South Africa's play during the Confeds Cup.

DB: A winning spirit. Being able to compete with the likes of Spain and Brazil built confidence, without which the team would not be where they are now.

BuaNews: What are the positive impacts on the side after Coach Carlos Alberto Parriera's return?

KG: Before, South Africa didn't play with a certain style or plan, now they have both with each player knowing their role in the side. They are also a lot fitter than they were before.

DB: The team has self-belief and they play to a system that they are most suited to. He has helped the team identify their strengths and used that to develop a pattern they can play to.

BuaNews: SA players to watch during the World Cup?

KG: Siphiwe Tshabala, Steven Pienaar, Katlego Mphela

DB: Siphiwe Tshabalala is revelling in his midfield role. Another is striker Katlego Mphela, who has taken on the responsibility of leading the attack.

BuaNews: Generally, what is the team doing right?

KG: There's a professional set-up on the technical side. If that can be maintained and built on, and supported by the SAFA management, then we can only improve.

DB: I am worried about after World Cup when Parreira leaves and we get a local coach. There needs to be better link up with the PSL sides so they breed the strikers needed to perform at international level.