South Africa’s creative midfield maestro, Steven Pienaar, has implored his team-mates to rise above their current situation when they face former world champions France in their 2010 FIFA World Cup Group A finale at Bloemfontein's Free State Stadium on Tuesday.
It has been trying times for the hosts as they search for a 'miracle' that will allow them to advance to the knockout stages of the FIFA World Cup. Pienaar, the team’s most decorated player whose performance at club level has elevated him to a hero in South Africa, believes Bafana Bafana can redeem themselves against France.
They will have to beat Les Bleus by a convincing margin and hope for fortune to smile their way in Uruguay’s simultaneous match against Mexico in Rustenburg. Pienaar admits that they will have to be at their best in order to beat a French team that has suffered its fair share of setbacks during this tournament. But, he said that there is a renewed sense of optimism inside the South Africa camp. “It’s going to be a new day, a new game and new opponents,” he said. “We are playing at a different stadium. It’s all going to be a different day. We just have to give our upmost, go out there and believe in ourselves.”
It’s not been the best of times. You have to understand as well that sometimes you have to sacrifice yourself for the team and that’s what I’ve done.
South Africa are eager to exorcise memories of that 3-0 defeat by Uruguay in Pretoria last Wednesday where the hosts, despite going to that game riding on a wave of optimism, never troubled the Uruguayans. It was a performance which opened the team up to a lot of criticism at home, and elevated the encounter with France into a win-at-all-costs contest.
Much was expected from Pienaar at these finals, given his form for club side Everton on the left hand side of midfield during the past season. His presence in the Bafana team was seen as key to the hosts' ambitions, but coach Carlos Alberto Parreira has utilised the player in a new and unfamiliar advanced central role.
Pienaar's below-par performances have drawn some criticism and he has been willing to take the negative comments on board.
“At times, you look at your game, at your own performance and to be honest I’m not a happy man with the way things have been going,” he admitted. “It’s not been the best of times. You have to understand as well that sometimes you have to sacrifice yourself for the team and that’s what I’ve done. But a lot of people don’t understand that. If the coach asks you to do something for the team, you have to do it, and I think that is what I’ve done.”
As he opens up on his frustrations, he believes that the team can channel their 'anger' and 'disappointment' towards improving as a team. “You have to pick yourself up if you want to be successful. I hope God will open the doors that are shut for us. They say if you want to be successful you have to go through turbulence and trials. And maybe the Uruguay game was one of those moments,” he added.
Parreira has hinted that he might ring changes ahead of the France match, which might mean some further shuffling for Pienaar, but as he has said, he is a team man, with his ambitions and comfort coming second.