There's been enough said about the recent performance against Nigeria, or lack of performance, and so I won't harp on about the actual match, but I do want to voice my concern at what I perceive as a negative attitude both on and off the field.
Bafana Bafana started with a 4-5-1 formation with Surprise Moriri as the lone target against one of Africa's soccer super-powers. This really was a 'surprise' as Moriri is neither big nor strong enough to hold the ball up, nor is he is quick and pacey enough to pose a threat to a flat-back-four if the ball is played over the top. He has great touch and vision, can pass well and does get on to the end of things in the goal area, but mostly when playing in a deeper role behind the striker - being a target is a specialist position.
I think there were a few question marks over some of the positional changes especially in the right back position and the coaching staff can't have any excuses because SuperSport United's league-winning right-back, Siboniso Gaxa, was sitting on the bench watching Golden Arrows midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi try his best in an unfamiliar position.
No spirit, no passion
But apart from some strange positional changes, my biggest disappointment was that not one player on the field even gave the suggestion that he thought we could win the game. Even the formation suggested that we were going to Abuja to keep the score down - never mind get a result. Now Nigeria is not the easiest place to play for an away team. I doubt that a team like Spain or Portugal would find things easy playing against a squad of Nigerians who have most of their players starting in some of the top teams in some of the top leagues - so a victory was always going to be a big ask, but it was the way in which we lost that upset me.
There was no spirit, no passion, and although some players ran their hearts out and tried their best, I didn't get the impression that they were all in it as a team. There was very little attitude on the pitch, little aggression and for large patches of the match the Nigerians looked like they were at a training match.
We have to get a positive spirit going if we are to have any chance of even small success in 2010. This starts with the players actually looking like they are keen to play, enthusiastic about wearing the jersey, passionate about playing international football no matter the odds or the opposition.
It also means the coaching staff have to transmit a positive attitude across the team, and if you start with a 4-5-1 formation with a midfielder up front and one at right back, then it will be bloody difficult to get the rest of the team convinced that they have got the best possible chance of getting a result. The players know!
Imposing in the air
I am tired of the 'Benni issue' - he is our best goal scorer, but if he doesn't want to or can't play, can we please move on. Let's give Terror Fanteni a chance, and what about bringing back Glen Salmon as a target? He has spent a big chunk of his career in Holland, is good for a goal every few matches, is big and good in the air and provides an ideal target for our attack. Matthew Booth is another that has been forgotten. The six-foot-five central defender is imposing in the air, has got a lot of international experience, and has been playing for a long time in the harsh physical environment of Russia. I'm sure he would have loved the sun on his face in Abuja.
We do have the players, and we do have the ability. But without confidence, enthusiasm and passion, we will continue to under-perform on the world stage. It's time for a big injection of POSITIVE attitude!
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