Sydney – South Africa coach Gordon Igesund on Sunday heartened Australia ahead of their “Group of Death” at next month's World Cup, claiming champions Spain have become “very predictable”.
Bafana Bafana, who shocked the reigning world and European champions 1-0 in Soweto in November, take on the Socceroos in a friendly in Sydney on Monday.
The inexperienced Australians, the lowest ranked team in the tournament, face a daunting task in Brazil against Spain, the Netherlands and Chile in Group B, with few giving them much hope of an upset.
But Igesund believes the stellar Spaniards have become complacent.
“Obviously Spain were the world champions when we played them and European champions but just in my humble opinion I think Spain has become very predictable, the way they play,” he told a press conference.
“They just continuously play the same way over and over. They don’t get wide, they don’t get balls into the box.
“When they get into those wide positions they want to pass it and pass it and keep going down the middle. You can plan against them, unless they change things.
“They are very, very predictable. It's very similar to Barcelona, they play the same way all the time and I think teams are getting used to the way they play.”
The Bafana boss did, however, stop short of backing Ange Postecoglou’s Socceroos when they go up against Spain in Curitiba on June 23.
“I’ll probably be able to answer that a little better after tomorrow night’s game,” he said when asked about the chances of the Socceroos causing an upset.
Tim Cahill will captain Australia for the first time in Monday’s warm-up game before the team leaves for Brazil.
Postecoglou said he will not risk newly appointed captain Mile Jedinak against South Africa after the midfielder injured his groin playing for Crystal Palace in the last round of the English Premier League earlier this month.
“Tim’s leadership and the way he conducts himself in the group as a senior player has been impressive, and with Mile not able to play against South Africa Tim will captain the side,” Postecoglou told reporters.
Former Everton star Cahill, 34, now playing for New York Red Bulls and about to notch up his third World Cup, said leading the Socceroos would be the proudest day of his football career.
“It’s an honour to put on the green and gold shirt and play for the Socceroos but to lead the team out will be amazing,” he said.
While South Africa have been hit by a spate of high-profile withdrawals ahead of their friendlies with Australia and New Zealand, Igesund dismissed claims his side was in crisis.
“Obviously, there’s a couple of players missing who are the so-called big name players,” he said.
“The squad I’ve got here is part of a group of about 34 players I’ve selected to take us forward for 2015 African Cup of Nations and of course for the 2018 World Cup.”
Half the original 18-strong squad named last month have pulled out due to injuries, forcing Igesund into a last-minute scramble for replacements.
Among the absentees is Kagisho Dikgacoi, the Crystal Palace midfielder and the only South African playing regularly in the English Premier League.
Goalkeeper and captain Itumeleng Khune and Kaizer Chiefs teammate, attacking midfielder Bernard Parker, were others who dropped out. – Sapa-AFP