Slug­gish Benni is far from his best

Bafana wary of high-tempo Ja­pan

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - JOHN GO­LIATH

CAR­LOS AL­BERTO PAR­REIRA prob­a­bly didn’t get a lot of sleep last night af­ter watch­ing his “best” player strug­gle at the team’s fi­nal prac­tice ses­sion be­fore this af­ter noon’s friendly against Ja­pan at the Nel­son Man­dela Bay Sta­dium (kick-off 3.30pm).

Striker Benni McCarthy looked very slug­gish in a prac­tice match in which a prob­a­ble start­ing line-up took on the rest of the squad.

His first touch was too heavy most of the time and he also couldn’t get into good po­si­tions in­side the “op­po­si­tion” penalty area.

McCarthy was brought back to give the team much-needed fire­power, but he looked way off the pace in the first real glimpse of the team af­ter Thurs­day’s train­ing ses­sion at the match venue was closed to the me­dia.

The Black­burn No 10 has strug­gled with his weight over the last few years and hasn’t seen much game time at his club. He has spent a lot of time on the bench and his busi­ness man­ager Rob Moore has also been quoted as say­ing the striker wants to leave Rovers in Jan­uary.

It looks as though McCarthy is likely to part­ner the in-form Katlego Mphela up front against the for mer Asian cham­pi­ons.

The Mamelodi Sun­downs striker has been in great form for his club, scor­ing 11 league goals so far this sea­son. He is also the only player to score for Bafana in their last nine in­ter­na­tion­als.

Ver­sa­tile 22-year-old de­fender Anele Ng­con­gca is set to make his de­but at right back for Bafana to­day. It looked like he will start ahead of Ajax Cape Town util­ity player Lance Davids, af­ter reg­u­lar right back Si­bon­iso Gaxa with­drew from the squad be­cause of in­jury.

Cap­tain Aaron Mokoena is likely to start along­side Mor­gan Gould at the back, while Is­raeli-based left back Tsepo Masilela will con­tinue on the left of de­fence.

Par­reira is likely to con­tinue with two hold­ing mid­field­ers in MacBeth Sibaya and Kag­isho Dik­ga­coi, with the lat­ter prob­a­bly play­ing more of an at­tack­ing role.

Teko Modise and Siphiwe Tsha­bala will com­plete the quar­tet in the ab­sence of the in­jured Steven Pien­aar.

Goal­keeper Rowan Fer­nan- dez looks to have se­cured the No 1 jer­sey for the en­counter. Fer nan­dez and Moe­neeb Josephs have been vy­ing for the jer­sey all week, but it looks like the for­mer Chiefs player has won Par­reira’s favour.

Fer­nan­dez, who plays for Ar­minia Biele­feld in the Ger- man sec­ond divi­sion, said yes­ter­day he will have to per­form well if he gets to start.

Itume­leng Khune is al­most back from in­jury and it will be hard for Par­reira to over­look the Chiefs goal­keeper.

“There are a lot of peo­ple putting their hands up right now,” Fer­nan­dez said. “Khune is com­ing back, Arthur Bart­man, Hans Vonk, Moe­neeb and my­self all want to play.

“I think it’s just a mat­ter of who wants it the most. In a cou­ple of months time Car­los will have a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion to make of who to pick in his World Cup squad. If I get a chance to­mor­row, I am cer­tainly go­ing to do my best.”

The squad has watched some footage of the Ja­panese to pre­pare for the game.

Ja­pan are looking to build some con­fi­dence ahead of World Cup next year.

“It’s go­ing to be tough for us,” Fer­nan­dez said. “They like to play a high tempo game and of­ten man­age to catch teams on the counter at­tack.”

GALLO IM­AGES

ENGLISH CON­NEC­TION: Kag­isho Dik­ga­coi of Ful­ham and Benni McCarthy of Black­burn dur­ing the Bafana Bafana train­ing ses­sion.

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