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Pressespiegel, Südafrika

27. März 2009

Bafana packed with firepower

For the first time in a long while, Joel Santana has plenty of attacking options for Saturday's Nelson Mandela Challenge between South Africa and Norway (Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace, 3pm). Benni McCarthy may have once again absconded from national duty, but Santana still has adequate firepower at his disposal, although the question of whether he can adequately use it remains open to debate.

Since his arrival in the country last May, Santana has preferred to utilise two holding midfielders, but even the withdrawal of Kagisho Dikgacoi has seemingly not swayed him from that tactic.

This week, as Bafana wound up their preparations before heading to Rustenburg, Santana had Masilo Modubi in central midfield, which indicated he intends replacing Dikgacoi with the Westerlo man alongside Macbeth Sibaya.

The return to the side of Steven Pienaar is a huge boost
Modubi's real potential at this level remains untested, simply because he's had limited opportunities for Bafana.

Throwing him in at the start against the Norwegians might not be a bad idea, although Lance Davids was preferred in that position during Thursday's training session.

The return to the side of Steven Pienaar is a huge boost, although questions have always been raised about where the Everton midfielder is more suited. He's excelled on the left wing for his English Premiership club, but few can recall a match in which he was outstanding as a wing for his country.

Teko Modise is also in great form, and, by this week's indications, the Orlando Pirates midfielder should start on the right wing, a position he confessed he doesn't particularly enjoy.

There's also Siphiwe Tshabalala, who has given sparkling displays in the national jersey, but pretty ordinary ones at Kaizer Chiefs recently.

If Santana sticks with the two holding midfielders strategy, then one of Modise, Pienaar or Tshabalala will have to sit on the bench. On form, Pienaar and Modise are almost undroppable, so Tshabalala looks vulnerable, even though dispensing with him would leave the starting XI with one natural left-footer, Tsepo Masilela.

Santana, like his predecessor Carlos Parreira, has never seen any reason to play two outright strikers, but that may change as Mabhuti Khenyeza is expected to play a supporting role to Bernard Parker, who finds himself in the unlikely role of senior striker in the squad after the withdrawal of McCarthy through a phantom injury.

Nothing much is expected to change at the back, though, with Aaron Mokoena and Matthew Booth taking over in central defence, assisted by Siboniso Gaxa and Masilela on either side.

And who will be in goal? Rowen Fernandez wants to reclaim the position, and may do so as Itumeleng Khune and Calvin Marlin have both been at the receiving end of heavy drubbings at club level.

Santana, however, may choose to use Khune for Saturday's clash and then opt for Fernandez against Portugal in Switzerland on Tuesday.

This article was originally published on page 22 of The Mercury on March 27, 2009

By Nkareng Matshe



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