Coach is without his first-choice centre backs.
Injury problems aside, the biggest predicament facing Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund is who should he play at centre back? Igesund is without his first-choice centre backs amongst the casualty ward Bafana have resembled.
Three players – Tsepo Masilela, Kagisho Dikgacoi and Siboniso Gaxa – added to Igesund’s injury woes when they withdrew this week. Further chaos ensued as Siyanda Xulu, Gaxa’s replacement, was dropped on Friday due to injury.
Igesund was already without the services of key defenders – Morgan Gould, Siyabonga Sangweni and Thabo Matlaba – who were all part of the Africa Cup of Nations squad. These players will be a huge loss to Bafana as they are players who can weather the storm and create something out of nothing for the team.
Igesund will take a depleted team to two crucial 2014 World Cup-qualifying games away in Cameroon and Ethiopia next week.
Bafana take on Central African Republic (CAR) on Sunday in Yaounde, Cameroon, and face the Walia Antelopes of Ethiopia a week later in Addis Ababa.
But despite this crisis, Igesund put up a brave face this week, saying it would be a good test of character for his available players.
“These are trying times for us, but we will have to soldier on,” said a worried Igesund after the team’s first training session this week.
“Injuries are part and parcel of the game. We will have to do with what we have, but I am confident the players will do the country proud.”
Of most concern to Igesund is his central defence pairing.
He said he had not made up his mind as to who should partner Thabo Nthethe at the heart of defence.
Once again, Itumeleng Khune will play with a new back four as only Anele Ngcongca and Nthethe remain from the previous team. Igesund hopes to use this afternoon’s friendly against Lesotho to juggle his defence and try different combinations. “This game could not have come at a better time. It will help us get the team together. We will use it to try different combinations. We will also use next week’s training sessions to get it right.”
It will be interesting to see what Igesund does against Likoena as this could be a way to shock CAR with his selection.
He has the option of trying two Kaizer Chiefs central defenders, Eric Mathoho and Tefu Mashamaite, but both lack international experience.
Another alternative would be to see how Nthethe performs alongside Mathoho, as they played together at Bloemfontein Celtic two seasons ago. If this does not work, he can throw Bevan Fransman in the mix.
Another headache for Igesund is the left back position, where Tebogo Langerman and Ricardo Nunes still have to prove themselves at international level.
Whatever Igesund decides doesn’t change the fact that he has to shoot down CAR and Ethiopia to stand a chance of qualifying for the final round of qualifiers.
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