Don’t be too defensive. Attack them through the wings. And oh, guard against No11.
These are some of the words of advice Ruud Krol has given Orlando Pirates as they take on Esperance in tonight’s do-or-die African Champions League second leg semi-final tie here (Stade Olympique Rades, 8pm SA time).
Krol, who coached Pirates when they won an impressive treble three seasons ago, says the Buccaneers stand a great chance of causing an upset and become South Africa’s first club side to triumph in Tunisia.
“They can do it, for sure,” the Dutchman said. “You can look at history and say SA teams have struggled here, but history and statistics mean nothing. You can always create your own history and I believe Pirates have a massive chance of doing that.”
Pirates could only draw 0-0 with Esperance in the first leg at Orlando a fortnight ago, and having watched that match, Krol believes Bucs would get a desired result if they reproduce the performance of the second half from the first tie. “They were good in the second half of the first leg,” Krol recalled. “They need to capitalise on the chances they create this time.”
Krol, who coaches Tunisian side CS Sfaxien and has also been roped in as Tunisia’s national coach on an interim basis, added Esperance are tough at home but by no means unbeatable.
“Pirates can win if they aren’t too defensive. If they sit back they will be punished. They have to play their normal game – like they did in the second half at Orlando. They also need to attack through the wings because Esperance are too strong in the centre. You can’t penetrate them there but their biggest weakness is their wings. You have to get through them with speed and get the crosses in. Pirates must not be afraid of them.”
Krol expects Esperance to be cautious as they know that conceding first would mean they require two goals to progress to next month’s final. “They won’t open up too much because of the result (from the first leg). I don’t think they’ll take too many risks. But if after half-time the score is still 0-0, they will go forward and try to win at all costs.”
He urged Pirates to guard against Esperance’s “No11 from Algeria”, whom he described as lethal. “He’s their most dangerous player,” Krol said of Algeria forward Youcef Belaili. “He starts on the left side but cuts into the centre to harass defenders. Pirates must watch out for him.”
Krol, who was speaking to the Saturday Star via telephone from Sfax – some 270km from here – said he would try to make time to visit the Pirates camp today to exchange pleasantries with some of the players he coached before curiously leaving the club in 2011.
“I’m preparing for our African Confederation Cup semi-final (against fellow Tunisian side CA Bizertin tomorrow), that’s why I haven’t found time to come to Tunis. But I hope to do so (today). I won’t be at the stadium though, because I have to be in camp with my team ahead of tomorrow’s game. I will watch Pirates-Esperance on TV, however,” he said.
Meanwhile, Krol is convinced he can lead Tunisia to next year’s World Cup in Brazil, in spite of the Carthage Eagles drawing 0-0 with Cameroon in last week’s first-leg play-off here.
“It was a huge pity that we didn’t win that game. Their goalkeeper was Man of the Match and I suspected that was going to be the case when he pulled off an impossible save after just three minutes. But, like Pirates, we have a chance in Cameroon because it is 0-0.”
Krol’s Sfaxien also drew 0-0 with Bizertin in the Confederation Cup first leg two weeks ago. - Saturday Star