Time for Bafana to step up
Gordon Igesund (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund hopes to finalise the core of his squad when South Africa face Poland and Kenya in friendly internationals.
Igesund, who replaced Pitso Mosimane in June, is mandated to take the team to the semi-finals of next year's Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament in South Africa.
He also has to ensure that they qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
"I'm not preparing a team for the next World Cup," Igesund said on Monday before the squad left for Poland.
"I need to put a team together for the Africa Cup of Nations in three months' time.
"We need a team that can play together, that can compete, and a team that can possibly win the tournament."
Having had a few opportunities to test players in various positions, and a further chance to do so in their two upcoming games, Igesund said the next group of players he selected would form the nucleus of the AFCON squad.
Bafana shut out five-time world champions Brazil for 75 minutes, eventually going down 1-0 after a late strike from Hulk, in Igesund's first match in charge in Sao Paulo last month.
Four days later Bernard Parker scored a brace as they secured a 2-0 victory over Mozambique in Nelspruit.
Facing a similar scenario, with a friendly against Poland in Warsaw on Friday and another against Kenya in Nairobi next week, Igesund believed the travelling and the change of conditions would give him an indication of the stronger players he had available.
"We need to be tested, and we're being tested now," Igesund said.
"After we played Brazil, we got on a plane, and we played Mozambique a few days later, but we're not going to harp on about it.
"We need to see who has character when we play these games a few days apart."
Igesund's selection was affected by numerous injuries ahead of the clash against Brazil, with a number of strikers unavailable.
He was pleased to have a full-strength squad as they prepared to tackle Poland, who are 22 places above them in the FIFA rankings.
With his entire squad turning out in club matches at the weekend, both locally and overseas, Igesund said they had made it through without a hitch.
"Fortunately nobody was injured yesterday [Sunday] or Saturday.
"When we went to Brazil, we called up replacements and they got injured the same day.
"So everyone's fine, everyone's well, and we're looking forward to the trip."
Playing their first game since former national captain Steven Pienaar retired from international soccer last week, Igesund said they would need to adapt quickly in his absence, with Bongani Khumalo taking the on-field reins.
"Steven felt like it was difficult to mix playing for his country and for Everton," Igesund said.
"He has played very good football for the team over the years, and I would have loved to have him available for the Africa Cup of Nations, but he has made a decision and we have to respect that and move on."