Benni to miss 2010 SWC?
Johannesburg - Bafana Bafana "bad boy" Benni McCarthy has ruled himself out of the Nelson Mandela Challenge against Norway at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium on Saturday and the friendly international against Portugal in Switzerland on March 31.
But the Blackburn Rovers striker might just have ruled himself out of playing at the Confederations Cup in June and next year's World Cup.
One official said: "Benni could be in for a big shock and could be watching the Confederations Cup from the stands."
There is a growing anger against McCarthy within the Bafana set-up as it appears he likes to pick and choose his matches.
One official, on condition of anonymity, said: "We are fed up with McCarthy's antics of backing out of games when he does not feel up to playing. We are not saying he is not injured but he should be here to have the injury assessed as per the FIFA rules."
McCarthy, who is fighting to retain his place at relegation threatened Rovers, told the Bafana technical team that he suffered a hamstring injury and was unable to play. He failed to arrive in camp on Monday in order that the Bafana medical team could assess his injury.
He told Bafana team doctor Ephraim Nematswerani that he "could not walk" after suffering the injury in the 1-1 English Premiership draw against West Ham United at the weekend.
When pressed why there appears to be one rule for McCarthy and another for the rest of the players, head coach Joel Santana was his usual evasive self.
But Santana will have to put his foot down and make a decision on McCarthy soon. The matches against Norway and Portugal are the last before he selects his final squad for the Confederations Cup shortly.
However, Santana made it clear McCarthy and other players who are not in the squad to play Norway and Portugal would still be considered for the Confederations Cup.
But McCarthy could have pushed his luck a big too far this time. He went into self exile in 2006 when he claimed he was blamed for Bafana's failure at the African Nations Cup finals in Egypt. Then he was "begged" by former coach Carlos Alberto Parreira to return. But McCarthy has a history of failing to honour Bafana call ups and last June failed to play in the four Afcon qualifiers in order to spend time with his family. Bafana failed to qualify for next year's Nations Cup finals in Angola.
Katlego Mashego replaces McCarthy while the only other injured player not available is Kagisho Dikgacoi who is out with a knee injury and is surprisingly replaced by Mamelodi Sundowns striker Katlego Mphela.
Bafana skipper Aaron Mokoena said that the players knew the importance of the two matches. Said the Blackburn Rovers hard man: "We know this is our final chance to tune up for the Confederations Cup. We learnt from losing 2-0 to Chile last month. Norway and Portugal are good sides and will prove big tests for the players. The players are excited about getting together and playing two tough games and trying to win a place in the Confederations Cup squad."
Santana said that Norway were tactically different from Chile and that Portugal, whether or not they play their stars such as Ronaldo and company, would be a handful and help him prepare for the Confederations Cup.
Said Santana: "We can expect a tactical match against a very good Norway team on Saturday."
Bafana open the Confederations Cup against Iraq at Ellis Park on June 14.
Norway have announced a team of mainly locally-based players including Mokoena's Rovers teammate Morten Gamst Pedersen, Brede Hangeland of Fulham, Roma and former Liverpool star John Arne Riise and Toulouse's Daniel Braaten.