Bafana duo praise Parreira
Johannesburg - Eight months after returning for his second stint with the national side, Bafana Bafana players heaped praise on coach Carlos Alberto Parreira on Tuesday, three days before they face Mexico in the opening game of the Soccer World Cup at Soccer City.
Parreira cut short his first contract with South Africa in April 2008 for personal reasons, but after a rather unsuccessful 18-month stint by his replacement, fellow Brazilian Joel Santana, he returned to the post in October last year.
Santana guided South Africa to the semi-finals of last year’s Confederations Cup, but the side’s form dipped and, after they had lost eight of his last nine games in charge, he was sacked.
On return, Parreira has transformed the team with South Africa entering the World Cup off a 12-match unbeaten run, including a notable 1-0 victory over Denmark in their final warm-up game in Atteridgeville last Saturday.
“Santana was good for us at the Confederations Cup, but then he produced poor results for a number of reasons, one of them being injuries,” said lanky defender Matthew Booth.
“I think Parreira was the right person to steady the ship and he was afforded three months on the road with the team (on training camps), which is a chance most coaches don’t get.
"He’s also got us playing the ball on the ground, which is one of our strengths.”
Parreira has led four other nations to five previous World Cup tournaments, guiding Brazil to victory in 1994, and striker Bernard Parker said his experience would be invaluable for the hosts.
“The coach has brought in different tactics (to Santana‘s) and a different way of playing, and he’s done well with us because of his experience,” Parker said.
“He’s a World Cup winning coach and he knows what we can expect.”
Following their recent run of success, both players said they were confident South Africa, ranked 83rd in the world, would perform beyond expectations, although their attention at this stage is focussed on Friday’s opening game.
“Friendlies don’t count for anything and Mexico will be tougher to beat, but we’ll be ready for them,” Booth said.
When asked by a journalist how he expected South Africa to do if they made it past the first round, Booth’s response was, “not if, but when”.
He went on to add: “I don’t think many of our players are looking past the first hurdle. Once we’ve played that game I think the focus will shift, and it depends who we draw in the knockout stages, but anything is possible.”
And Parker agreed, voicing his confidence of their chances if they progressed to the next round.
“The main focus is to get past the group stage,” he said, “and in knockout games anything can happen.”