Cape Town - Not the
joyful ride to San Jose that the hit musical song promises, but a tricky
encounter in the compact northern town of Liberia when Bafana Bafana launch a
friendly, but in many ways critical, two-game friendly programme against world
39th-ranked Costa Rica on Thursday, October 8.
This will be
followed by a match-up against a seemingly less difficult encounter
against 82nd world-ranked Honduras on
Tuesday, October 13 for the 72nd world-ranked Bafana, who will be hoping to
restore a measure of respectability to a reputation seriously tarnished by
embarrassing results against Gambia and Mauritania in African Nations Cup
Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba will be announcing his squad for the two-game
venture into Central America on Tuesday with the knowledge of an unpalatable
record of being only the 17th-ranked team in Africa in spite of enjoying
comfortably the best facilities on the continent - and the urgent need to
improve both his team's reputation and rankings.
The Costa Rica and Honduras games fall in a period
designated by FIFA for international matches, so Mashaba will be able to select
his strongest available squad.
But then so will Costa Rica, whose team could include a
number of foreign-based stars of the calibre of Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor
Neves and Arsenal striker Joel Campbell.
Nothing less than
a creditable performance by Bafana against the awkward and well-organised Costa
Rica and a victory over the less formidable Honduras will suffice - not forgetting that Costa Rica reached the
quarter-finals of last year's World Cup in Brazil and then were only beaten by
The Netherlands via a penalty shoot-out following the extra-time draw.
Costa Rica have only won one of their last five matches, but this was against
South American powerhouse Uruguay, with drawn games against El Salvador and
Canada and narrow, 1-0 defeats against teams from the top echelon in Brazil and
Significantly in these five games, despite the quality of
their opponents, Costa Rica only conceded three goals - so scoring for Bafana
in Liberia will in all likelihood be fraught with difficulties.
Honduras have lost three of their last five games against
the United States, Ecuador and Haiti, but all these matches were played away
from home and materialised as closely-fought encounters, with a stunning 3-0 win over a tough Venezuela at home proving they are
Meanwhile, Mashaba's selection on Tuesday will be of
more particular importance than usual,
with the return of former Kaizer Chiefs and NFL "Footballer of the
Year", Tefu Mashamaite, who has launched a successful career in Sweden,
standing out as one way of bolstering Bafana's prowess.
Also, sure to attract attention, is whether the Bafana
coach now retains Itumeleng Khune as captain, or sticks stoically to his
rotation policy in this respect - and also if he places greater emphasis on
including active and in-form players in his selection.