Carlos Alberto Parreira is not only pleased with how his South Africa side are playing, he is confident that they have crafted an image of their own before they embark on their ambitious mission to appease 47 million South Africans when they face Mexico in the opening act of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ at Soccer City.
"We respect everyone, but we fear nobody,“ Parreira said after his team beat Denmark 1-0 on Saturday at Super Stadium in Tshwane/Pretoria. “If you had asked me five months ago if we were ready, I would have told you that 'no, we have a long way to go'. But today, I'm happy with the progress, we are up there, we are ready for the task that awaits us. We still have time to work on one or two things, but overall, I’m happy."
Rehired in October last year to guide Bafana Bafana to the Promised Land, Parreira is left with only five days to iron out the rough edges before the world gets a first view of the team's progress "We now have an identity, we now have our own style," the 1994 FIFA World Cup-winning coach added. "We are playing with a lot of confidence and the most important thing is, this team is playing to its strengths.
"When I took this job, I said that my biggest priority is to give this team an identity, I sold that vision to the players and today, watching them play like that, I was very happy with the fact that they have bought into the vision. This team is more comfortable with the ball at its feet, we like to keep possession and to pass the ball around. That is what we are doing and that is why I’m very happy."
I took that message to the players and I told them that it was their responsibility to make this country proud. Now they are ready.
Wearing a broad smile and looking relaxed, the Brazilian is now confident that his side is ready to "make all South Africans proud" after the polished performance against the well-regarded Danes. "Our aim is to win, the result against Denmark was very important for us. We played against a very good team, an experienced team. But as I said, we played with confidence. We have played a number of games in our preparations, but I knew that the game against Denmark was going to be a huge challenge for us."
Parreira arrived in South Africa last year at a time when Bafana were going through a rough patch under then manager Joel Santana. Parreira's first task was to win back hearts and restore confidence in the team. "I remember when I came back to this job, people, ordinary people, used to stop me in the streets and they would say 'coach, make us proud, please make us proud'," said the Brazilian. "They were not saying 'please win us the World Cup', but they wanted something to be proud of. I took that message to the players and I told them that it was their responsibility to make this country proud. Now they are ready."
Assessing a victory that extended the FIFA World Cup hosts' unbeaten run to 12 games, skipper Aaron Mokoena said it was important for Bafana to maintain this momentum going into their tournament opener. "We are playing well as a team. On Saturday, we faced a very experienced Danish side with quality players, but the boys proved that they have what it takes to perform at this level. Now we have to keep the momentum going."