Pitso Mosimane has backed his captain Steven Pienaar to find his international goal-scoring touch, as Bafana Bafana prepare to take on Ethiopia in a 2014 World Cup qualifier in Rustenburg on Sunday.
Pienaar has scored a paltry three times in 60 appearances for Bafana, but has had a stellar few months at Everton in the English Premier League, that included key goals against Chelsea, Manchester United and Sunderland.
‘Schillo’, for all his undoubted class, has too often battled for club and country when it comes to hitting the back of the net. But the 29-year-old revealed on Monday that a chat with Everton coach David Moyes has helped him sharpen up, since he re-joined the Toffees on loan from Spurs.
“When I went back to Everton I sat down with the coach and he wanted me to get more into the box and the final third, and to be a bit more selfish. I’ve been working on it in training and I hope I can get more goals for the national team,” said Pienaar on Monday.
Pienaar’s increased capacity to get forward has certainly been noticed by the Bafana coach.
“He’s improved his game, it’s slightly different,” noted Mosimane.
“He goes inside more now, he gets in there, and that is why he scores goals. He takes shots … he takes his chances.”
A battle to bulge the net has been a disease that has ravaged Bafana for some time now, with their failure to score the prominent reason they failed to qualify for the 2012 African Nations Cup, never mind the much publicised rules fiasco.
Mosimane must turn around this goal-shy nature if Bafana are to have any chance of making it to Brazil 2014, starting against lowly Ethiopa, on paper the worst side in a qualifying group also containing Botswana and the Central African Republic.
The return of 34 year-old Siyabonga Nomvethe, on the back of 20 league goals and the PSL Footballer-of-the-Year award, has to be cause for some optimism, as far too much striking pressure has been carried on the shoulders of Katlego Mphela.
“Bhele has been around for so many years, he knows what is expected at the highest level,” said Pienaar.
“It’s good to have him in the team, at the end of the day he’s as sharp as always .. he looks like he’s 20 years old!”
Mosimane, meanwhile, stressed that the burden of scoring should be carried by the whole team.
“It’s not about waiting for Mphela and Nomvethe to score,” he said.
“Pienaar is scoring and has brought that here, Shabba (Siphiwe Tshabalala) is scoring, even (Siyabonga) Sangweni and (Morgan) Gould have been scoring so hopefully it rubs off.”
The whole squad was together for the first time on Monday at the Royal Bafokeng Sport Campus in Phokeng, with Sundowns and SuperSport players joining the fray following the Nedbank Cup. The main absentee was Thulani Serero, who has been given compassionate leave following the passing of his father.
“Thulani must take as much time as he wants during this situation. We understand and support him during these difficult times and send out deepest condolences to Serero and his family,” said Mosimane.
And goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs, of course, is also not in Phokeng, having announced his decision to retire from international football. Mosimane, however, refused to close the door on Joseph’s future, even suggesting he had until yesterday to show up, to still be considered for Sunday’s game.
“The FA have still not received any official correspondence from the player, and we have also not received any. I have heard about his retirement in the media, but I have yet to meet the player. We need an official stance from Moeneeb,” said Mosimane.
The Bafana coach had no time for the suggestion that Josephs is not getting a proper opportunity to get game-time for the national team.
“Ask Pa (Gaxa) if he gets reasonable game-time against Anele (Ngongca).
“Ask (Siyabonga) Sangweni, when Aaron (Mokoena) was playing, if he was getting reasonable game-time. It’s not for me to say how many minutes you are playing. I read somewhere, look at (Victor) Valdes of Barcelona, he’s won so many cups, more than (Iker) Casillas, but he’s waiting.” – The Star