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Benni Decision To Haunt Shakes 12/12/03
Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba is going to live or die by his decision not to reach a compromise with star striker Benni McCarthy ahead of the African Nations Cup finals in Tunisia early next year.

McCarthys omission from the 22-man squad for the continental showpiece was the only real shock in Mashabas fairly predictable selection.

South Africa have been pitted in a Group of Death alongside Nigeria, Morocco and Benin, and failure to progress beyond the opening stage will certainly condemn Mashaba to the coaching scrapheap.

For this reason it baffles that the burly coach was not prepared to meet McCarthy halfway in his request to join the team a few days before the start of the tournament so that he could fulfill club commitments in Portugal.
Not to state the obvious, but goals win matches, and goals are not something Bafana Bafana have helped themselves too in abundance in recent times, which makes the failure to accommodate the Hanover Park-born player all the more baffling.
Instead Mashaba has chosen to go with a strikeforce composing George Koumantarakis, Siyabonga Nomvete and Patrick Mayo, hardly players to leave opponents trembling in their boots.

With no offence to the trio, they are not proven goal scorers at international level, with two of them, Big George and Nomvete getting little to zero playing time at their respective clubs.

The lanky Koumantarakis, who when fit has much to offer the national team, has not played a match since hobbling off with a leg injury during Bafana Bafanas 2-0 win over Madagascar in March this year.

Nomvete has been having a tough time of it in Italy with Udinese, four substitute appearances (zero goals) for the club the only game time he has enjoyed all season. His rusty performances against Egypt and Tunisia are testimony to this inertia

Mayo is unproven at international level and has never been a player to bag loads of goals, functioning with greater effect as a target man. His ability to compete with the likes of world-class, physically imposing defenders like Taribo West and Jospeh Yobo of Nigeria, and Nouredine Naybet of Morocco is unproven.

So where the goals are going to come from is anyones guess. Mind you if the Castle Premiership is anything to go by then they should come from elsewhere -  midfielders John Shoes Moshoeu, Marawaan Bantam and Josep Ngake heading the local scoring charts.

One option for Mashaba may be to push Sibusiso Zuma up front, which would allow the exciting Jabu Pule or Stanton Fredericks to slot in on the right of midfield.

Danish-based Zuma operates as striker for FC Copenhagen, scores goals for them and plays regularly. Playing off a target man like Koumantarakis or Mayo will allow Mashaba to get his full value out of the former Orlando Pirates striker.

Looking at the squad as a whole it is still worrying that an out-and-out right-back has not been accommodated although Mark Fish, Thabang Molefe, Mbulelo Mabizela and Aaron Mokoena have all played there in the past.

My starting defence would be Molefe on the right, Fish and Mokoena in the centre and Jakob Lekgetho at left-back.

What about Mabizela? An interesting and brave option for Mashaba would be to play OJ as a holding midfielder - a role which has been identified as he best position by his club Tottenham Hotspur - with Ajax Amsterdams Steven Pienaar alongside him in central midfield.

Pule would give the team pace down the right flank with Delron Buckley on the left.

Upfront Zuma and Mayo would provide the firepower.

Which only leaves the goalkeeping berth. And there is only one real contender here and that is Wayne Roberts who has finally been rewarded for his exceptional form at Wits, although it is an absolute travesty that Moeneeb Josephs has failed to make the squad ahead of a keeper well passed his sell-by-date and another who no one has really seen play over the past four years!

My starting lineup for the Nations Cup then:

Roberts, Molefe, Fish, Mokoena, Lekgetho, Pule, Mabizela, Pienaar, Buckley, Zuma, Mayo.

by Gavin Smith


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