Pienaar almost fully fit
Bafana Bafana have received some encouraging news about captain Steven Pienaar’s groin injury, ahead of Sunday’s African Nations Cup 2012 qualifier against Egypt in Cairo.
Pienaar arrived in Johannesburg on Sunday morning, and after paying a quick visit to his family in Westbury, made his way to the team camp at the Royal Bafokeng Sport Campus in Phokeng.
The 29 year-old midfielder’s injury was then set to be assessed by Bafana’s team doctors, after which a final decision will be made on whether he is ready to face the Pharaohs.
The prognosis Bafana have received from Pienaar’s club, Tottenham Hotspur, however, does appear quite positive.
Spurs informed Bafana that Pienaar was responding well to treatment, though he was not yet 100 percent fit.
Pienaar has been struggling with the injury for a few months now, and aggravated the problem in Tottenham’s penultimate league game of the season against Liverpool.
Schillo’s absence would be a major blow for Mosimane, as he is their greatest creative influence, and the best exponent of the possession football the Bafana coach tries to drill into his players.
The entire Bafana squad watched Barcelona’s masterclass against Manchester United on Saturday night together, with Mosimane reminding his team that keeping possession away from your opponent immediately negates most of their danger.
This may not be so easy for Bafana against the Pharoahs, in a game Egypt simply have to win to have any chance of staying in the hunt for qualification to Equatorial Guinea/Gabon 2012.
However, Bafana have also shown under Mosimane that they are more than capable of keeping their shape and defending, conceding just one goal in the new Bafana coach’s tenure, and none at all in Nations Cup qualifying, a record that has helped them to the top of Group G, with seven points from three games.
Bafana could be considered a little lucky to have taken down Egypt in Johannesburg at the end of March, through Katlego Mphela’s late, late strike. But if you don’t concede, victory is always going to be possible right up to the final whistle.
“I think we have shown good resilience since the World Cup,” said Bafana midfielder Kagiso Dikgacoi this week.
“We have conceded just one goal and this is one of the positive signs we can take out of our performance. I hope we continue doing the same.”
The 26-year-old expects Egypt to be far sharper at home than they were in Johannesburg, where many members of the squad had not had too much game time following the postponement of the Egyptian domestic league, which has since resumed.
But he also pointed out that a draw in Cairo would actually suit Bafana, given the group situation.
“I think Egypt will be more prepared.
“Before the first game they didn’t have enough time. It will be a difficult match, though I think the conditions will not be as bad as in Freetown (Bafana drew 0-0 with Sierra Leone in October, in intense humidity, on a cabbage-patch of a pitch).
“I don’t think we have to be that offensive, if we get a draw, it is good for us.
“I believe they are going to come at us, so we just have to stay compact, and if the chance happens, we can come out ... and win the game.”
Digkacoi has returned to the Bafana starting line-up after benefiting from regular play this year, on loan at Crystal Palace. He will go back to Fulham for the pre-season, but has indicated he wants to leave if, as previously, he cannot get in the team.
“It depends on the manager (Mark Hughes). He said in interviews that he still believes in me. I don’t want to predict my future but wherever I go I want to be guaranteed game time.
“There are a number of teams interested (in me). Palace is one of those teams. My main aim is to play in the Premier League, but I would consider going to Palace depending on that.”