Bafana Bafana came away with a much needed confidence booster ahead of their opening Confederations Cup match thanks to a comfortable 1-0 win over Poland on Saturday afternoon.
The team, and head coach Joel Santana in particular, has been receiving a lot of stick from the South African media in recent weeks and it seems to have gotten to the players who appeared to be out to prove a point to the naysayers with a spirited team performance against a Polish side ranked 39th in the World by Fifa.
It's been a while since I've seen Bafana playing the way they did today, with every player looking up for the fight. Our passing was slick, movement off the ball was good and Bernard Parker showed glimpses of why he is being touted as the striker to fill Benni's boots in the National Team.
Santana started with a somewhat defensive line-up by playing with three defensive midfielders in the form of Macbeth Sibaya, Kagiso Dikgacoi and Benson Mhlongo. However I have always maintained that Kagiso is not your typical defensive midfielder as he does offer the team something going forward in attack. A bit like Barcelona's Yaya Toure if you will.
In midfield Steven Pienaar showed why he has become a household name in the English Premier League with a brilliant display as he set up Bafana's only goal of the match with a clever through ball for the speedy Parker , and Tembinkosi Fanteni displayed his predatory instincts by completing the move with a tap-in from Parker's knock on in the 5th minute. Fanteni is one of those strikers who always seems to be in the right place at the right time, a goal poacher in the mold of former Manchester United striker Ole Gunner Solsksjaer.
Defensively there were also some positives to take out of this encounter with Matthew Booth and Aaron Mokoena combining well at the heart of the Bafana defense to snuff out just about every Polish attack, as they restricted to visitors to long range efforts. A rare clean sheet for Bafana will also have done Itumeleng Khune's confidence a world of good ahead of Sunday's Confederations Cup opener against Iraq. I felt that Siboniso Gaxa - despite his ridiculous haircut - showed enough quality to secure his place in the starting line up next Sunday.
All in all a good display from the Boys and a much needed confidence booster for the Confederations Cup. And on another positive note, it appears as if coach Joel Santana's English lesson's are starting to pay off. The coach was accompanied by his translator but he didn't need her help to understand or answer any of the questions directed at him during the post match interview.
Some say he only 'speaka da English' when Bafana's winning but I think he's trying to master the language ahead of the 2010 World Cup. Bring on Iraq!
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