Sluggish Benni is far from his best
Bafana wary of high-tempo Japan
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.”
ENGLISH CONNECTION: Kagisho Dikgacoi of Fulham and Benni McCarthy of Blackburn during the Bafana Bafana training session.