South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parreira has emphasised that his team are shaping up well ahead of their hosting of the FIFA World Cup™, after watching them beat Thailand 4-0 at the new Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit. It was only the third time Bafana Bafana had managed to net four goals in a game, and got their four-match final preparation stretch for their opener against Mexico on 11 June off to a flying start.
“These are the final preparations and this was an important game," Parreira said. "Before this game, I told the boys that we are looking for two things: performance and results. Performance is about progress, I don’t care about opponents. We had to play good football, the ball possession is improving. Maybe we can have better penetration when going forward, but we can always work on that."
Parreira, who guided Brazil to gold at USA 1994, still has 25 days to get the formula right before the tournament. However, he left Mbombela with many positives. Most notably was that his forwards, who have endured a lot of criticism recently, have started firing. Both two-goal Katlego Mphela, whose position in the team has been questioned, and Bernard Parker got on the scoresheet, while Tshabalala enhanced his reputation as a scorer of superb free-kicks.
"I think I did well today considering the fact that I haven’t scored many goals," Mphela said. "I will take this performance forward to other games. It was good for my confidence. This game gave us confidence, we scored goals. It was important for us to know where we are. As the coach said, we now have to work towards being better as a team and as individuals."
The results equal South Africa’s record. The last time they scored four goals was against Chad, three years ago. What will be more pleasing to Parreira, though, is that his side managed to put a polished and fluent performance despite the fact that some of his regulars were either sitting on the sidelines or still out of the country.
The team’s heartbeat Steven Pienaar has been given time off, captain Aaron Mokoena was still travelling from England following his sterling performance for Portsmouth in a 1-0 defeat by Chelsea in the English FA Cup final, and star defender Tsepo Masilela is still in Israel. Benni McCarthy, meanwhile, watched the Thailand game from the stands after being urged to regain full fitness before the FIFA World Cup.
“We are the underdogs in the World Cup, no-one expects us to win our group," said Parreira. "We are playing better, we are now keeping the ball more. The confidence levels are improving. As a team, we are improving, we still have some games to play before our first match at Soccer City. I know that next time we will face much tougher opponents. Everybody knows that teams like Bulgaria, Colombia and Denmark are strong countries, they should test our preparations."
Thailand coach Bryan Robson said: “I think South Africa played a very good game and played good football, especially in the first half. The atmosphere was unbelievable. When I tried to send instructions it was impossible. Maybe this is where South Africa will get an advantage as many teams will not be used to this noise.”