South Africa Camp Focus – Bafana prepare for Uruguay crunch match

South Africa’s well-earned point against Mexico last Friday now seems like a distant memory, as the hosts prepare for the match that could ultimately seal their fate.

Last week’s hero Siphiwe Tshabalala seems optimistic about their chances of progression, believing their momentum should be enough to carry them through the game against Uruguay: “Uruguay will be in trouble if we carry on where we left off against the Mexicans” said the midfielder. Fellow countryman Steven Pienaar, who had a fairly disappointing game last week highlighted the quality that their next opponents possess even without star player Diego Forlan: “ Uruguay are a really physical team who are well organised in defence with three centre-backs and also boast several good attacking players apart from Diego Forlan,” he added. “We must focus on our game and make sure we get the right result as the group is wide open”. Centre-back Bongani Khumalo however seemed more aware of the threat posed by the Atletico Madrid striker, but equally believed that Bafana would be able to cope against the player: “Diego is a world-class footballer, but the whole point of playing in this tournament is to test yourself against the best,” said Khumalo. “There is no fear of Forlan nor Uruguay .

After the game against Mexico it was announced that Lucas Twala had sustained a minor injury that would effectively rule him out of their next match against Uruguay. Questions arose over the selection of Twala as the team sheet was announced, with the left-back spot usually belonging to Tsepo Masilela who was brought on at half-time. There were also rumours of a possible injury to talisman Pienaar who was also taken off in the game against Uruguay. Looking flat-footed, the Everton player had quiet game by his standards before making way for Bernard Parker late on. Despite no real showings of injury for Pienaar, involvement in Europa League games certainly does not seem to have done his fatigue any favours. This combined with his lack of training at altitude after he joined the camp only a month before the tournament start could be reasons for his poor showings thus far. As far as the injury concerns went, the South African camp refused to comment on the matter.

Elsewhere on the team front it looks as if Katlego Mphela will have a striking partner to play alongside tonight, as the hosts look to field a more attacking side for their make or break game. Coach Carlos Alberto Perreira was reportedly unhappy about their lack of threat up front, possibly due to star-man Pienaar’s sub-standard performance. FC Twente’s Parker looks set to start ahead of one of the five-man midfield that played against Mexico last week in a desperate attempt for a win. The change will surely alert Uruguay, whose defence looked shaky despite any real threat posed by the French attack. With New Zealand fielding a five-man midfield against Slovakia for their well earned point, it shows tactically that flooding the middle is a good option for the teams with slightly less quality. But as Perreira’s CV indicates, his vast experience of managing Brazil for a total of seven years shows he won’t be afraid of turning up the pressure to get a result

Off the field there was controversy about not only the ball the games are played with but the crowd in attendance. There have been rumours of a ban of the vuvuzuela, a South African horn-like instrument invented by Kaizer Chiefs fan Freddie ‘Saddam’ Maake. Broadcasters of the games have complained about the instrument- citing the annoyance driving away viewers. Bodies of various countries competing have also complained, believing that the instrument drowns out the crowds chanting and singing thus ruining the atmosphere. Bafana Captain Aaron Mokoena has however called the instrument “our 12th man that we need”, highlighting it as a “weapon” for the games they play. Whether or not the plastic horns can help carry them through the game against Uruguay tomorrow is another thing, but their opponents poor showing against France keeps them well within reach of an upset against the 16th seed. With Uruguay eager to get an advantage over Mexico for second, and France desperate to improve, Wednesday could ultimately settle the host’s fate in the tournament. But no one is counting them out just yet.


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