Ricardo Nunes looks set to go straight into Bafana Bafana’s starting XI for Friday’s friendly against Poland, if Wednesday morning training session here is anything to go by.
A day after reporting for his first Bafana camp in this Polish capital, Nunes was handed a place in what looked to be Gordon Igesund’s starting team, and the leftback was also given some free-kick responsibilities as the South Africans practiced in cold conditions at the Znicz Pruszków ground.
“I enjoyed it… very nice,” Nunes said after training. “Everybody gave me a chance to fit in. I was welcomed warmly and I like wearing this jersey. It looks nice on me, doesn’t it?” the left-sided defender said, pointing at his Bafana kit.
The Johannesburg-born player, who headed to Portugal aged just eight, confessed he’ll be quiet when the national anthem is sung before kick-off on Friday night.
“Man, it’s too difficult. Only one bit is in English and the first part I can’t understand at all. But it sounds very nice. I will get to know it someday,” he said.
While memorising Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika is expectedly proving difficult for Nunes, getting to know the names of his teammates has been easier.
“Some of them I already know. Like (Siphiwe) Tshabalala. But I now know a few more – Dino (Ndlovu), Dean (Furman) the midfielder, the goalkeeper (Moeneeb) Josephs. Some names are too difficult but I’m sure I will know everyone by the time this camp is over.”
Nunes, 26, played for Portugal at youth level but is now looking forward to donning the Bafana jersey. He plays for Slovakia side MSK Zilina. “If I’m picked I’ll be grateful. I’m here to help and add value.”
Meanwhile, striker Bernard Parker has promised to continue his excellent scoring run as he’s expected to lead Bafana’s attack at the National Stadium (8.45pm).
“I have trust in my teammates that they can make me score again,” the Kaizer Chiefs striker said.
Parker netted a brace in his last international – a 2-0 victory over Mozambique last month – continuing his great start to the season.
“It was a great comeback for me to the national team, scoring those two goals and I want to continue scoring. I want to hit the back of the net all the time. I’m highly motivated because we have a good team.”
A win against Poland is critical, Parker said, in order for Bafana to improve their dismal away record – in the last two years they’ve beaten only Tanzania on the road.
“It’s important to win away. The conditions don’t suit us as it is a bit cold, but as professionals we need to know how to handle these types of situations. When we play qualifiers in Africa, it’s even worse because the pitch is not always up to scratch. But that’s where we should test ourselves.
“We should know what kind of football we have to play away. We can’t continue playing the ball on the ground when the pitch doesn’t allow it.”
The pitch at the 58 000-seater National Stadium is in top-notch condition, however, and Bafana won’t have cause to blame it should things go awry tomorrow.
But Igesund and his men will be looking beyond Poland, as they eye next year’s Africa Cup of Nations. “We have to do well in that tournament. It’s not good that we are known to qualify only as hosts and not through proper tests. We have to reach the final to prove that we deserve to be there,” Parker said.
Meanwhile, Kagisho Dikgacoi finally joined the camp yesterday morning after being delayed in England due to visa problems. – The Star