Pitso Mosimane is confident Katlego Mphela can perform in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers against Ethiopia and Botswana, despite increasing concerns over the Bafana striker’s form and fitness.
Mphela, Bafana’s third all-time leading goalscorer, has netted just once this year for Mamelodi Sundowns, about two months ago at Ajax Cape Town, and has not started a game for the Brazilians in more than a month.
“The second half of the season has been rather disruptive for Mphela,” his business manager Glyn Binkin said yesterday.
“He has had a number of niggling injuries which require proper treatment, extensive rehabilitation and, most importantly, rest.
“(Because) he is a key player in the Sundowns team he has often had to play through the pain barrier to try and help them win the league… as such (he) has not been able to recieve the necessary treatment.
“… He has now been called up to the Bafana squad and at this stage it looks as though the earliest he will be able to undergo the relevant treatment is mid-June... this is an unfortunate reality that we have had to accept and deal with.”
Mphela has two more potential games with Sundowns before he joins the Bafana camp – this afternoon’s Absa Premiership clash with Free State Stars, and next weekend’s Nedbank Cup final against SuperSport United.
Whatever happens in these games, the 27-year-old seems certain to meet with Bafana in far from optimal condition. But Bafana coach Mosimane, as he announced his squad this week, did not seem concerned about his key striker.
“Let me take you back to when we had Mphela at the (2009) Confederations Cup,” said Mosimane. “I think he’d scored four goals the whole season and he played the Confed Cup and you know how many he scored against Iker Casillas (two).
“Mphela is an important part of the team, on his day he scores. It’s not me who says that, it’s what he does on the pitch. How many times did people say I should substitute him against Egypt (at Ellis Park at the end of 2010), and he scored. Thulani Serero has not kicked a ball (at Ajax), but he is important. Bongani Khumalo has not kicked a ball for Tottenham Hotspur, but I bring him in against Senegal (in Bafana’s last match in February) and it is not a problem. When Mphela is on the field you have a chance to score, that is a fact.”
Mosimane does, however, perhaps have the perfect alternative to Mphela in his squad, having finally answered the increasingly noisy banging on the door of the Absa Premiership’s top scorer Siyabonga Nomvethe.
Nomvethe, at 34, is clearly a short-term solution, but having netted just six times in their past 12 internationals, solutions of any kind are what Bafana badly need.
“It’s a good thing to call Nomvethe,” said Mosimane. “It’s not about how old he is... he has the condition to play with Bafana with his speed, agility and endurance.”
Mosimane also, quite rightly, deflected attention from Bafana as carrying the responsibility of curing a nation’s goalscoring woes.
“The players are with their teams the whole year, and we have two days’ training to try to make them score. We have our programmes, but the major part starts with youth development and with their teams. The top scorer in the PSL is on 20 (Nomvethe) and the rest are on 10 or 11.”
Bafana will play Ethiopia on June 3 at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace before travelling to Gaborone to face Botswana on June 9. They play a friendly against Gabon on June 15.
And Mosimane is targeting maximum points from his first two qualifiers. “Six points are important and it’s a big opportunity... if you look at the Nations Cup qualifiers we got four points from our first two games and we ended up needing only one more point to qualify.”
Bafana also confirmed this week they play Poland in an away on October 12.