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Big George Vital To Bafana Hopes 18/06/04
Bafana Bafana striker George Koumantarakis is expected tom play a vital part in South Africa's quest for victory in a World Cup qualifying game against Ghana in Kumasi on Sunday.

This has come about due to the unavailability of Shaun Bartlett due to a family crisis, as well as the expected state of the pitch in Kumasi.

Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter has been doing his homework - he spoke to Santos manager Boebie Solomons, whose team played at the same pitch in a CAF Cup game against King Faisel Babes.

Solomons advised Baxter that the Kumasi pitch was probably the worst he has ever encountered in professional soccer and warned Baxter that his side will not have time to dwell on the ball as the tackles will be flying in and will be made even more dangerous by the atrocious pitch.

Bafana therefore look set to employ long-ball tactics as the pitch will be in no way concussive to passing football.

The idea will be to pick out the tall Koumantarakis, who will be asked to stand up to the robust Ghanaian defenders and bring his team-mates into play.

Bafana will also be looking to get crosses onto the head of the former Manning Rangers man - this ploy was practiced at the team's training session at FNB Stadium yesterday, and Koumantarakis was said to be in fine form as he found the back of the net with some powerful headers.

Baxter was very impressed with the Preston North End target-man and will be hoping he can carry this form into Sunday's big clash.

"George had a great session. We may be forced to play a certain way given the poor state of the playing surface at Sunday's venue, Baxter is reported as saying in the Star.

The English-born coach was also pleased that the team has the ability to alter their tactics when needed.

"It is good that the team can switch to a different style of play when they are challenged by conditions not conducive to flowing football,"

'Big George' is confident that he can produce the goods for South Africa.

"I know I can do the job and I'll be working hard at training to prove that point. But it's up to the coach as to who starts on Sunday.

"I really want to play some part in the match, even if it means coming off the bench to help secure a win," he said.

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