at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
It is far from inconceivable that coach Gordon Igesund could leave his Bafana Bafana post at the end of July, if not sooner, with the scalps of both World Cup champions Spain and global behemoths Brazil under his belt.
The Selecao visit FNB Stadium on Wednesday evening with, pending injuries this weekend, superstars like Neymar, Oscar and Thiago Silva expected to give a taste of what Bafana will not be experiencing at the World Cup finals later this year.
Bafana shocked Spain 1-0, in a friendly at the same venue in November, and having already troubled Brazil in Sao Paulo in Igesund’s first game in charge in September 2012, have every right to fancy their chances of another surprise this week.
Yet in the term “friendly” lies the rub for the Bafana coach.
Glamorous friendly wins may well not be enough to save Igesund’s job, partly because in official competition he has not achieved the desires of the South African Football Association.
There are also extraneous circumstances threatening to break Igesund’s contract – the investigations into allegations that he advised the players to ask for extra money ahead of the African Nations Championships (Chan) earlier this year.
But even these allegations have emerged from failure – Bafana did not perform well at Chan, winning just one match and slumping out in the group stages.
Igesund also failed to pick up the rather tattered pieces left by his predecessors Pitso Mosimane and Steve Komphela, defeat to Ethiopia in Addis Ababa ultimately costing Bafana a place in the African World Cup playoffs.
At the Cup of Nations finals at the start of last year, meanwhile, a quarter-final place was not a bad effort, but possibly still not enough for Safa bosses retaining delusions of grandeur – Igesund was mandated to reach at least the semi-finals.
There is a decent argument that it would be ludicrous not to renew Igesund’s contract, at least for next year’s Cup of Nations qualifiers.
It is hardly the Bafana coach’s fault that when he took over the job, South Africa had only two points from their opening two World Cup qualifiers.
Igesund’s efforts at last year’s Cup of Nations were the best any coach had managed since Carlos Queiroz reached the last eight in 2002, while Chan could be considered an unfair assessment of his credentials as it is a competition that by its nature denies a coach many of his best players.
But it is more likely that the die has already been cast and that this week will be part of Igesund’s swansong.
Either way, the Brazil game offers another chance for Bafana’s players to test themselves against the best in the world, albeit with the bitter-sweet knowledge that they will not be playing where it really matters, in Brazil in the World Cup later this year.
It is hoped that Thulani Serero gets a chance to play, though a groin injury picked up at Ajax Amsterdam could yet rule him out.
South Africa’s best current young attacking talent has not played for Bafana since Igesund kicked him out of camp ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Botswana in September. And one feels he needs to play a key role in qualification for Morocco next year.
Elsewhere, it will be interesting to see what Lindokuhle Mbatha and Hlompho Kekana can offer after impressing during Chan.
And in-form Bernard Parker has a chance to move out on his own as Bafana’s third all-time leading goalscorer.
As for Brazil, this is probably their last friendly away from home before the World Cup.
Brazil, currently coached by 2002 World Cup winner Luis Felipe Scolari, have beaten Bafana in all four previous meetings, their last win in Johannesburg coming in the 2009 Confederations Cup semi-final, Dani Alves’ brilliant free-kick late on snatching a 1-0 win.
In Sao Paulo in a friendly in September 2012, it was also 1-0, Hulk grabbing a second-half winner.
Brazil’s current assistant coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira, of course, will return tomorrow to the country where he coached Bafana Bafana, failing to guide them past the group stages at the 2010 World Cup. - Sunday Independent