New South Africa coach Gordon Igesund has boldly raised the bar for his squad ahead of a friendly against five-time world champions Brazil in Sao Paulo on Friday.
He told footballers who could not beat Ethiopia or Botswana three months ago that they are "as good as any in the world" before his debut as successor to Pitso Mosimane. Brazil are 62 places above South Africa in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking released this week and have won the three previous meetings between the countries, all in Johannesburg.
The South Americans came from two goals behind to triumph 3-2 in 1996, won another friendly 2-1 the following year, and a Dani Alves free-kick goal two minutes from time settled a 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup semi-final. But Igesund, a 56-year-old from Indian Ocean city Durban who led a record four clubs to the South African league title, is promising long-suffering Bafana Bafana (The Boys) supporters a lot at Estadio do Morumbi.
He says South Africans will see some new faces, a 4-3-3 system, an emphasis on attack, and 11 passionate South Africans when they watch a live broadcast of a friendly between the 2010 and 2014 World Cup hosts. "This team will go out there and play for each other, play with passion, play with pride. We are not going to Brazil to be whipping boys - we are going to do our very best.
South Africa have played too defensively... We must play with African flair and use those special gifts our players have.
"We are going to play a new system, we are going to play more attacking football, and I am expecting a lot from these players. We have a team that can fight, a team that can play really well for each other."
Igesund is critical of the influence Brazilian coaches Carlos Alberto Parreira and Joel Santana have had on Bafana Bafana, believing a cautious approach has stifled natural South African talents. "South Africa have played too defensively," he said of teams coached by 1994 World Cup-winning coach Parreira, Santana and Mosimane during the past five years.
"We defended and then we won possession and then we had to build slowly, slowly to allow our full-backs to get forward because we had no wingers. The team must play much quicker with wingers going past players, full-backs supporting them, and midfielders linking with strikers. We must play with African flair and use those special gifts our players have."
Igesund chose a mix of 'old guard' and newcomers in a 25-man squad hit by the late injury withdrawals of captain and Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar, defender Anele Ngcongca and striker Siyabonga Nomvethe. When the replacement for Nomvethe was also injured, Igesund recalled former UEFA Champions League final winner Benni McCarthy after a two-year absence despite a former Bafana coach claiming the 34-year-old was "10 kilograms overweight".
Newcomers include full-backs Kamohelo Mokotjo from Feyenoord and Kgosietsile Ntlhe from Peterborough United, Oldham Athletic midfielder Dean Furman and striker Dino Ndlovu from Maccabi Haifa. South Africa will host the 2013 CAF Africa Cup of Nations next January and February and Brazil stage the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup during June to prepare for the FIFA World Cup™ a year later.