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Crunch time for Bafana

2010-06-16 08:25
Comment by George Dearnaley

Bafana Bafana passed the first test with flying colours – their second half performance against Mexico gave us all hope that they can progress beyond the group stage and reach the Holy Grail of the knockout rounds. But now it’s crunch time ...

To play the first match of the World Cup on home soil in the biggest stadium in Africa in front of a full house of mostly local supporters is a huge advantage. Mexico were poor on the day, and yet we couldn’t win. There was also a huge build up to the match with thousands of South Africans coming out in support of Bafana ahead of the match.

Fast forward a few days and the World Cup tournament is well on its way, yet we have not heard too much about Bafana v Uruguay at Loftus. This is the crunch match of the whole tournament for us. We can’t rely on beating France in the last match to go through – we have to get 3 points now. Uruguay played for the draw against France, hardly committing anyone forward. There is no doubt that they targeted one point from this match.

They will have targeted 3 points from the Bafana match, though, so any illusion that they will be sitting back and defending for 90 minutes should be dispelled right now. They will attack. They have the players to do so, and although their natural game is a defensive one and they have combative players all over the park, they know that they can’t rely on their last group match against Mexico to determine their fate.

The Bafana players will be in high spirits though, and there is an air of confidence permeating throughout the squad. There were some very good individual performances in the opening match although we looked very nervy in the first 20 minutes when we couldn’t get out of our goal area. I thought Itumeleng Khune looked very nervous, even in the warm up before the match kicked off he was fumbling balls. Teko Modise was poor on the day. He has tons of ability but his confidence is really low at the moment and his decision making has been poor.

Simphiwe Tshabalala has been a revelation since he moved more central in midfield. We need him and Steven Pienaar to dominate the midfield where Uruguay do not have the same type of skilful players, but they do have players who relish a 50/50 tackle – expect the tackles to be flying in the centre of the pitch.

I thought Bongani Khumalo and Aaron Mokoena did a great job on denying space for the quick Mexican strikers and they will have to be on the top of their game if they hope to deny Diego Forlan and Luis Saurez, both very capable attackers. Lucas Thwala is a little out of his depth at this level of the game. We miss Tshepo Masilela at left back.

I’d love to go with my heart on this one, but the South Americans are formidable at the back, they relish getting stuck into tackles in midfield and they possess a serious threat up front. I fear that we may be distracted by the praise after the opening match and might already be looking forward to the match against France – and if we don’t start the game with the right attitude, then Uruguay will beat us. 

It won’t be pretty, and it might only be one goal in the game, but I can’t see Bafana winning this one. Sorry. The only good news is that I have been horribly wrong with predictions before…

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