Parreira: Bafana unhappy, unfit
Johannesburg - South Africa's national football team is unfit and unhappy, returning coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said on Friday, but the Brazilian added he was confident he can get 85th-ranked Bafana Bafana through the first round of next year's World Cup.
A day after arriving, Parreira told reporters in Johannesburg he believes "the core is there, the team is there." He also said he would not have come back if he didn't think Bafana Bafana could advance.
The South African Football Association reappointed Parreira as head coach on October 23, 18 months after he gave up the job to spend time with his ailing wife. He replaces Brazilian coach Joel Santana, who left in what SAFA called an amicable parting of ways after eight losses in nine matches since June.
Parreira said a win or two would help morale, making upcoming friendlies - against Japan on November 14 and Jamaica on November 17 - "very important games for us."
"We want to win every game. That's how you build confidence," he said.
He added that South African fans, who have been scathing about the team's performances and sceptical about bringing back the Brazilian Parreira instead of turning to local coaching candidates, could help build morale.
"Let's embrace the team," Parreira said. "If we build a very warm feeling toward our national team, I'm sure the response will be great."
The team's physical condition was more worrying, Parreira said.
"World Cup is a war," he said. "You have to train, you have to play like a warrior."
He said 10 of his 11 starters were spending too much time on the bench with their foreign clubs. And those teams are under no obligation to release the players so Parreira can get them into shape.
A prime case in point is Benni McCarthy, named on Thursday to the 24-man team to face Japan.
Parreira said he expected McCarthy to make only one of the camps he plans for the team, in Brazil in March and then Germany in April. He called McCarthy the team's most experienced player, but acknowledged there are questions about his fitness and willingness to work.
"It's up to him," the coach said. "We trust him, that's why we're bringing him back."
Santana, Parreira's predecessor, dropped the Blackburn forward from the Confederations Cup earlier this year, a tournament seen as a World Cup warm-up. McCarthy has been a frequent no-show for friendlies, angering selectors and fans.
Parreira expressed sympathy for Santana, saying he had been under great pressure to win at a time when the team was still finding its feet. South Africa's style of play is often compared to Brazil's and Parreira, who is the country's 15th coach in as many years, said that another thing the two nations have in common is lack of patience with football coaches.
Under Santana, Bafana Bafana didn't qualify for the African Cup of Nations for the first time in 14 years, though he did take them to the semifinals of the Confederations Cup.
Parreira coached Brazil to the 1994 World Cup title. During his first tenure as South Africa coach, Parreira put together a young and inexperienced team that had a series of poor results and was eliminated in the first round of the African Cup of Nations last year. South Africa was then ranked 71st by FIFA.
SAFA's president, Kirsten Nematandani, introduced Parreira on Friday saying he expected the coach to take the team "through the knockout stages and most probably to the quarter-finals" of the World Cup.
Parreira said it wouldn't be easy, but "I believe we can do it.
"After jumping to the next round, the sky is the limit. Anything can happen."