Pitso Mosimane is hopeful that a strike partnership of Siyabonga Nomvethe and Katlego Mphela can pay winning dividends as Bafana Bafana take on Ethiopia today in their opening Fifa World Cup 2014 Group A qualifying match.
The international careers of Mphela and Nomvethe have only dovetailed slightly over the years, with the pair making just one start together for Bafana, against Zambia in the final game of South Africa’s ill-fated 2006 African Nations Cup finals campaign.
Nomvethe’s return, at the ripe old age of 34, after a cracking season with Moroka Swallows, is the latest ray of hope of finding someone other than Mphela to score goals.
The Bafana coach has paired the two in training all week in Phokeng, and all but confirmed yesterday that they would start against Ethiopia.
“It’s good to have two experienced players who have been to the World Cup,” said Mosimane after the side’s final training session at the Royal Bafokeng Sport Palace, venue of today’s clash.
Nomvethe scored Bafana’s first goal in a World Cup finals, against Slovenia in 2002, and was also part of Bafana’s World Cup 2010 squad, coming off the bench to join Mphela in the final game against France.
“They have a lot of goals between them, and a lot of experience, and they know what to do,” added Mosimane.
“Killer (Mphela) has played in the biggest games. When we needed goals against France (at the World Cup), he delivered, against the Ivory Coast (in a friendly) he was there… against Egypt (Mphela scored the winner in the final minute of a 2012 Nations Cup qualifier) in a big game, he was there, he has a nice temperament. He might not have played well for a month or so but that is okay.”
If Mosimane is banking on Mphela’s international cool and reputation (22 goals in 45 internationals), over his form and fitness (he has netted just once for his club in 2012, and is said to need a knee operation), with Nomvethe he has a man basking in an Indian summer.
“Nomvethe is on top of his game, things are flowing for him, you don’t even touch that,” said the Bafana coach.
”Bhele” netted seven times in his last four league games as Moroka Swallows just missed out on the Absa Premiership title, and his 79 caps for Bafana certainly give him bags of international experience.
The national team could do with him adding to his 16 international goals today. Bafana managed just four goals in 2012 Nations Cup qualifying and have scored just twice in four friendlies since then.
“We don’t score so you have to play two strikers,” said Mosimane yesterday.
“What is the point of playing one when you are dying for goals. I think it’s a question of match temperament. People take the wrong decisions. We build the ball well but it’s how we finish – to put proper technique to the situation – whether you blast the ball or place it into the net. That comes with experience, and it also boils down to development, not only in the PSL but how you come through the ranks.”
These are broader issues, but for now, the focus is Ethiopia, a side from whom Bafana really ought to take three points this afternoon. The East Africans may have been one of the founding members of the Confederation of African Football, but they have slid well down the continental scales, never making it to a World Cup finals, and not qualifying for an African Nations Cup finals since 1982.
Mosimane, however, has seen plenty to admire in today’s opponents. “Ethiopia play from the back, they play football, they are going to give us a game,” he said.