Johannesburg – South African midfielder Dean Furman says the improvement shown by Bafana Bafana over the last 18 months has been clear for all to see.
It was particularly noticeable in the way the team played together as a unit, Furman said in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
“I think we've come a long way. One of the first thing the coach said to us was that he wanted players who were proud to wear the jersey and who wanted to fight for it,” Furman said after South Africa's training session at a wet and rainy FNB Stadium on Tuesday.
“Over the 18 months, it's one of the things the coach has definitely instilled in the team. Everyone is proud to be here, everyone gets that little buzz being with the national team and it's a great environment to be in.”
Wednesday's friendly international against Brazil marked 18
months since Furman made his debut for the national side Ä against the same opponents Ä in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in September 2012.
That game was also national coach Gordon Igesund's first in charge and the English-based playmaker acknowledged the contribution made by Igesund over the last year-and-a-half.
“Definitely, over the last 18 months, we've understood and taken on board the direction the coach wants to take us on, both tactically and mentally,” Furman said.
“He's got to know us very well as individuals. I think we are in good shape. We have some terrific players coming through, we've got some terrific players knocking on the door and the competition, at this moment in time, is the best it has been.”
Bafana's last involvement on the international stage was during the 2014 African Nations Championship (Chan) where a dismal campaign ended in the South African hosts failing to progress past the group stages of the tournament.
Reserved exclusively for players who plied their trade in the local leagues, Furman and a host of other players out were ruled out of the Bafana squad for Chan.
“No-one in the team is guaranteed a starting place and I think that can only benefit us going forward,” said Furman, who plays for Doncaster Rovers.
“There are players, not only here (in South Africa), but in top leagues around the world and that can only benefit us in the future.”
Brazil have beaten Bafana in all four of their previous meetings, their last victory in Johannesburg coming in the 2009
Confederations Cup semi-final, where Dani Alves netted a superb 88th minute free-kick.
In the 2012 away game, South Africa caused plenty of problems for their hosts before eventually going down 1-0, courtesy of Hulk’s second half strike.
The hosts will be without goalkeeper and captain Itumeleng Khune.
Khune sprained his ankle while on duty for club side Kaizer Chiefs on Saturday evening, and joins Kagisho Dikgacoi on the sidelines.
Dikgacoi picked up a thigh strain, also over the weekend, when his English club Crystal Palace were in action against Swansea on Sunday.
Igesund said he was still uncertain on who would lead the team out against the Samba Boys, adding that a final assessment of their opponents was needed before any decision could be made.
“I haven't decided on my starting 11 yet,” Igesund said.
“I'm very close to it but I just want to finalise and make sure that we do everything properly. I'll be analysing a couple more things and analysing the tapes and opposition.”
Igesund, however, promised a thrilling game on Wednesday evening.
“Brazil is a world class team. But we're going to go out there with a plan. We need to play good football, knock the ball around and show that we are making strides going forward,” he said.
“One thing I can tell everybody is that we're going to be very competitive out there. It's 11 players against 11 players at the end of the day. We're going to play the type of football that we want to play.” – Sapa