Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bafana Plan ... Do They Have One?

One of the more interesting sports writers in South Africa is Carlos Amato, who works for the Johannesburg Times.

And Amato is agitated about the way the host nation's team is preparing for the World Cup. Or hardly preparing.

In this story/column, he contrasts South Africa's preparations with those of Mexico, the nation the Bafana Bafana plays in the 2010 World Cup opener on June 11.

Most of his complaints seem well-founded.

To wit:

--South Africa has only one practice (friendly) match scheduled between now and June 11, vs. Namibia on March 3. No matches during the team's training camp in Brazil have been finalized. Neither have any been set up during the team's camp in Germany, in April.

--South Africa's schedule may be a function of the soccer federation having no money.

--The Bafana made things worse by cancelling a March 3 match against Chile, a South American side that will play in the World Cup, and had to pay Chile damages for quitting. The reason? South Africa's third-rate league season has been extended because of rainouts, and the Bafana players would not be available.

--Honduras plays Ghana in South Africa on March 3 -- yes, the same day that South Africa plays Namibia. As the author notes, either Honduras or Ghana would give South African a much more valuable test.

Meanwhile, Amato notes, Mexico has 10 matches lined up against significant opponents, including Argentina, England and Holland in May, and Italy on June 3. All four are headed to the World Cup, and all four are seeded first in their groups.

South Africa already was at risk of being the first host country to fail to survive group play. And unless the federation lines up some real opponents, and soon, about all it will have going for it on opening day, June 11, will be the home crowd.

Which may not matter if/when the veteran and tested Mexican side jumps to a 2-0 lead.

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