Mark Gleeson

Santana unlikely to experiment

2009-05-05 13:43
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
Mark Gleeson

On Thursday we will learn the identity of the players who will fly the South African flag at the Confederations Cup when the squad for the tournament in June is named.

Do not expect any surprises, Joel Santana is not one for tinkering around and there are likely to be no dramatic late additions, or indeed, omissions.

Not that there are any deserving cases on the fringe of national team selection; we certainly don’t have too many players knocking on the door of the team bus.

Sad thing is, we don’t have much in the team bus either. Nor, it is becoming increasingly apparent, a decent driver either.

Not there is not much to do about it now, save for plug away and hope it all comes right by the time this country hosts the 2010 World Cup.

Upcoming for Bafana Bafana is a friendly against Poland and then the Confederations Cup, where the subtle tinkering of the draw by FIFA helped to ensure the softest possible starting option for South Africa.

But if Bafana Bafana do not take advantage of this largesse, and ease past both Iraq and New Zealand and into the semi-finals, then the World Cup in a year’s time threatens to be a total calamity.

Coach Santana has made it clear the basis of his footballing philosophy is the creation of a strong spirit and family atmosphere within the camp.

Singular focus

I think there is nothing wrong with that but it seems to dominate his thinking when I’d like to hear more about how we are going to play, the system and tactics, where the fire is in the belly and how the disciplines of the game are being drummed into the national team players.

We need a sharp, hungry and determined side, not just a big happy family. And we are going to need singular focus from the players in service of the national cause rather than the furtherment of their own individual careers.

Players like Teko Modise have the ability to be match winners but need to play to the system rather than faffing about looking for individual opportunity.

We need players to be able to make crisp and informed decisions on the field and shoot properly, like the wonder goal that Siphiwe Tshabalala converted to win the friendly against Norway in March. The irony is Tshabalala is rarely ever able to find the target and unless he improves his percentages, that goals will go down as a fluke rather than an inspired moment of genius. Indeed in the derby match against Pirates last weekend, one of his few efforts on goal actually ended up trickling out for a throw in.

The inability to get shots on target is a legacy of the poor coaching at league level, where the emphasis on flair and trickery has come at the expense of the game’s basics. Jeffrey Ntuka of Kaizer Chiefs is the first player I’ve seen this season who looks like he can deliver a decent percentage of crosses accurately into the danger zone. He has played for Bafana Bafana before but after a long spell out with injury evidently needs more time to get his game. But he could be one for the future.

Those chosen this week have a wonderful opportunity ahead of them, a chance of a lifetime waiting to be seized. There is not a lot of confidence across the country about their chances but hopefully we will be proven wrong. But on the evidence of recent matches, there is a lot of sharpening up to do.


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