Thursday, 11 October 2012

Friday night in Warsaw: the friendly against Poland nobody really wanted. PLUS: the weekend's final AFCON qualifiers

Ready for Warsaw: Gordon Igesund's Bafana in Poland yesterday... that's Ricard Nunes, middle row, third from right

It’s the friendly football match nobody wanted. South Africa versus Poland on an unforgiving Friday night in Warsaw. Gordon Igesund tried to get it called off. Steven Pienaar retired to avoid it. Even original host city Bydgoszcz rejected Bafana, and the Poles were forced to shift the game to their capital.

That’s not a bad thing. Apart from having too many zees, a riot broke out in Blydgoszcz when they hosted the 2011 Polish Cup final. And we can expect the odd racist chant tomorrow night, the Poles are famous for it. Would you want to play for fun against a team with the unpronounceable nickname “Bialoczerwoni”?

But the game goes on for South Africa against a rugged side filled with Bundesliga stars and ranked 22 places above them by FIFA. And remember, Bafana Bafana have won only once in Europe - that was against not-so-mighty Malta in 2005.

New Poland manager Waldemar Fornalik, with one eye on Tuesday’s key World Cup qualifier against England, must be wondering why they bothered.

His inspirational captain Jakub Blaszczykowski injured an ankle last weekend playing for German champions Borussia Dortmund against Hanover 96 and is out of BOTH games. Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny of Arsenal remains crocked and most bizarrely of all, local Legia Warsaw striker Marek Saganowski suddenly finds himself diagnosed with heart problems.

Still, he has star man Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski to pit against the fearsome Orlando Pirate Siya Sangweni and struggling PSV Eindhoven keeper Przemyslaw Tyton will make way for former Manchester United understudy Tomasz Kuszczak, now at Brighton, in goal, which should cheer South Africa's expat Polish population estimated at over 30,000.

On an unbeaten run of EIGHT home games, Fornalik – brought in after hosts Poland crashed out of Euro2012 in the group stage - has also called up Legia Warsaw winger Jakub Kosecki and Gornik Zabrze’s Arkadiusz Milik – an 18-year-old with five goals in seven matches this season - but neither have yet been capped by the Poles.

Fornalik says of 22-year-old Jakub, the son of Polish legend Roman Kosecki, who scored twice last weekend against Wisla Krakow: "He's a young player who has played very well this season. Those goals are proof of that. Like Błaszczykowski, he plays well on the flanks and has excellent 1-on-1 skills."

Igesund, who is more intent on preparing for a mid-summer AFCON 2013 at home than playing in Eastern Europe in autumn, has his full named squad to choose from, though veteran strikers Siyabonga Nomvethe and Benni McCarthy were left at home in rehabilitation rather than frail care.

Bernard Parker, the prolific Kaizer Chiefs striker, will lead the line with Dino Ndlovu, who has recovered from the shoulder injury he picked up in the 1-0 defeat against Brazil in Sao Paulo.

The Maccabi Haifa striker said: "If we play with the same mentality we had in Brazil, we should be fine. It’s good to be back. I have played some matches in Israel and my injury is fine.

"The spirit is high which should perhaps work in our favour, we should be okay against Poland."

We're banking on a team that looks like this: Khune; Nthethe, Khumalo (capt), Sangweni, Nunes; Myeni, Dikgacoi, Furman, Buckley; Ndlovu, Parker.

But all eyes will be on unknown Portuguese-South African Ricardo Nunes, 26, who left South Africa as a youngster to join the Benfica academy. Now playing for MSK Zilna in Slovakia, Igesund has had two days to assess the talents of his Johannesburg-born left-sided wingback.

Nunes admits:  “I’ve only seen South African football on the internet, but some of my African team-mates at Zilna talk about the skills there. And I saw the Brazil highlights, so I am confident we can beat Poland.

“I am very excited to be here with my new international team-mates. It was a very special moment to be called up by the land of my birth. I had to sort out my papers first with Fifa before I could accept the call-up but I’m here now!”

While Igesund goes about his unenviable task in Warsaw – I can’t see Bafana winning, a draw would be great - the real African action this weekend comes with the second legs of the AFCON 2013 final qualifiers.

By Sunday night we will know the identities of all the 15 teams headed to join hosts South Africa in January.
Traditional continental big-guns Cameroon need to overcome a 2-0 deficit against the Cape Verde Islands, with Indomitable Lions superstar Samuel Eto’o due to return to the team.

Didier Drogba’s Ivory Coast are 4-2 up against Senegal, but the Elephants can’t afford to slip up in Dakar. Reigning African champions Zambia have put their squad on double-bonuses as they defend a slender 1-0 advantage over Uganda in Kampala.

Elias Pelembe must recover from his mugging last week - which forced him out of Mamelodi Sundowns' defeat against Platinum Stars - to lead Mozambique to Marrakech after their rousing 2-0 first leg win of Morocco in Maputo. The Mambas would be basically playing at home if they get drawn to play at the Mbombela Stadium.

The full AFCON fixture list looks like this:
Saturday 13th

Malawi (0) v (2) Ghana (Lilongwe; 14:h30)
Black Stars should cruise to their 19th AFCON appearance

Botswana (0) v (3) Mali (Gaberone; 15h00)
Sadly, the Zebras have no chance even in Gaberone

Uganda (0) v (1) Zambia (Kampala; 15h00)
No Rainford Kalaba, but I back the champions to edge it

Tunisia (2) v (2) Sierra Leone (Monastir; 20h15)
Eagles of Carthage can get through on a 0-0 draw

Senegal (2) v (4) Ivory Coast (Dakar; 20h30)
South Africa needs Didier Drogba and the Toures to qualify

Morocco (0) v (2) Mozambique (Marrakech; 21h00)
Black Mambas have every chance of making it, just

Nigeria (2) v (2) Liberia (Calabar;  17h00)               
Super Eagles will be popular here but it’s tough

Sunday 14th

Cameroon (0) v (2) Cape Verde (Yaounde; 16h00)
With Praia knowledge, Lions should be indomitable

Angola (1) v (3) Zimbabwe (Luanda; 17h00)
Cracker in Luanda, the Warriors should just about make it

Togo (1) v (1) Gabon (Lome, 17h30)
Emmanuel Adebayor should be fit, should be enough for Togo

Equatorial Guinea (0) v (4) DR Congo (Malabo, 20h00)
Plenty of local Congans happy to see their side waltz in

Burkina Faso (0) v (1) Central African Republic (Ougadouguo; 20h00)
CAR not the easy victims they used to be, could make it

Algeria (1) v (0) Libya (Blida, 20h00)
Desert Warriors should add to Libya’s current woes

Ethiopia (3) v (5) Sudan (Addis Ababa; 15h00)
Will we see 8 more goals? Hard to call

Niger (0) v (1) Guinea (Niamey, 17h00)
Niger were lucky to escape a beating in Conakry.


  1. Nice .. I see that you can't take any critism. So I tell you that you wrong about Tomasz Kuszczak and then you correct the article and delete my comment as well. Don't know why i'm commenting anyway since you'll probably delete this as well.

  2. the king don father12 October 2012 at 09:21

    Too similar -

  3. Thanks An! And King Don, my preview written before that one.

  4. the king don father12 October 2012 at 09:59

    Not exactly. SS posted theirs about an hour before yours. Anyway it doesn't matter - news is news.

  5. So mysterious King Don, you'd be interested how often the major websites follow this blog. Mine was up before SS yesterday, but as you say, news is news. Some of the local SA papers are still regurgitating Wednesday's news about the game.

  6. the king don father12 October 2012 at 10:45

    Yes Neal I know .. SS love copying stuff from everywhere: Sowetan, Kick Off, SL, etc. They read a tweet, follow a link, write a story and publish.

    I was not accusing you of copying. In my initial post, I was just trying to say that the SS article is similar to yours. I should have perhaps worded my comment better.

    For what its worth, your blog has this post going up at 17:23 (GMT+1), SS has their post going up at 17:18 (GMT+2), which is before yours.

    Anyway i always respect you as a journo.

  7. person who originally wrote the comment13 October 2012 at 14:27

    To prevent such incidents like this from happening in the future .. please set your blog to not allow anon comments, have all comments should be made with a google, wp, openID account or something.

  8. person who originally wrote the comment13 October 2012 at 14:29

    Neal .. I just had a weird thought .. A couple of days ago I commented on a Juju article using you daughters name and said something sexual .. I really hope you didn't think it was her, lol. Please tell me you didn't confront her about that.