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Johannesburg – Gordon Igesund is pinning his hopes on the recovery from injury of several players, as he fights to resolve Bafana Bafana’s scoring woes in time for next year’s African Nations Cup.
Bafana have scored in just two of the five matches played under Igesund – against a very weak Mozambique and lowly-ranked Kenya – with Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to Zambia condemning South Africa to a third defeat since the coach took over in July.
Of course, Bafana’s poor scoring form is well-documented but it has now been exacerbated by the absence of Katlego Mphela, who has yet to return to official action following an injury that required surgery in the winter.
Mphela was for a period of two years Bafana’s go-to man for goals, and Igesund couldn’t hide his desire to see the Mamelodi Sundowns man back on the playing field, given the paucity of quality strikers in this country.
Only Bernard Parker and Tokelo Rantie have scored in recent games, with the likes of Dino Ndlovu and latterly Katlego Mashego and Kermit Erasmus flattering to deceive.
“There are maybe six or seven players who urgently need to prove their fitness in the next four weeks so that we can know what our options are,” Igesund said.
“I’m talking about Mphela, Thulani Serero, Davide Somma, Benni McCarthy and Daylon Claasen.
“I have spoken to Johan Neeskens [the Sundowns coach] about Mphela, and obviously I have principles so I’m not going to force him to pick him.
“Mphela has to fight his way back into the Sundowns team. You can’t rush him back only for him to break down again.”
With an impressive tally of 23 goals in 47 internationals, Mphela’s absence has been keenly felt, but Igesund is also counting on the return of Ajax Amsterdam’s Serero.
“He’s the sort of player we need,” the Bafana coach said of Serero.
“He can eliminate opponents and create chances. Even if he’s not 100 percent fit, we can get him here. A good 60, 70 minutes from Serero can help us a lot.”
Igesund, meanwhile, revealed he had failed in his bid to get an extra week of preparation from the Premier Soccer League in December. The national coach had urged the league to end their first-round programme on December 16 instead of December 19 and allow him to prepare the team for at least a week before they play their next friendly on December 22.
“It’s a difficult situation because fixtures were decided long ago.
“Stadiums have been booked and so on, but the PSL are doing their best to support me. They have allowed me to interact with the players at their clubs’ training bases. In any case it’s more important to see what a player does in training than in an actual match,” Igesund said.
This past Wednesday was the final official Fifa date for the year, but Igesund is keen to have Bafana together for the proposed December 22 match, which apparently will be against Algeria.
Bafana have a confirmed match against Norway on January 8 in Cape Town, and plan to line up two other friendlies before the Nations Cup begins on January 19.
Igesund promised his team will have drastically improved by the time they open the tournament against Cape Verde at Soccer City.
“We have been together for just eight training sessions. If I can get three weeks with this team, where we train twice a day, we will surely do better. Under the circumstances we didn’t do badly against a very good Zambian side, considering we had just one training session.” – The Star