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Lots at stake for South Africa, Brazil

04 Mar 2014 07:17:03

Lots at stake for South Africa, Brazil

World Cup hosts and title favourites Brazil hope to maintain a perfect record against South Africa on Wednesday in a Soweto football friendly with much at stake.

For the South American stars it is a last chance in the national strip to impress coach Luiz Felipe Scolari before he names his 23-man tournament squad in early May.

And only a victory can possibly save Bafana Bafana (The Boys) coach Gordon Igesund -- labelled a 'dead man walking' by the media because of poor tournament results.

Brazil have beaten South Africa twice in Johannesburg, once in Soweto and most recently in Sao Paulo, but all the victories were by one-goal margins.

A squad boasting star Barcelona striker Neymar plus drawcards from Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid start as overwhelming favourites again.

Opposing them at the 90,000-seat Soccer City stadium are lesser known footballers from clubs like Bournemouth, Doncaster, Genk, Lech Poznan, Ostend and Rostov.

But they rose magnificently to the occasion at the same stadium last November against World Cup and European title-holders Spain, winning 1-0 through a Bernard Parker close-range chip.

Hopes of another shock win suffered a double eve-of-match blow,though, when goalkeeper and captain Itumeleng Khune and defensive midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi withdrew injured.

Scolari,who steered Brazil to the last of five World Cup triumphs 12 years ago in Japan, values the form of his galaxy of stars far above reputations.

"We want to be world champions again," stressed the 65-year-old Brazilian, "and we are in South Africa to win.

"Bafana Bafana beat Spain recently so they will provide a good test. This match represents an important part of our build-up.

"It is an opportunity to get the players and back-room staff together a final time before naming the World Cup squad."

Brazil rely heavily on foreign-based stars for the friendly, choosing 16 including Chelsea quartet David Luiz, Oscar, Ramires and Willian.

There are also two new faces among the 19 Brazilians who arrived in wet and murky Johannesburg -- Bayern defender Rafinha and Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho.

After a recent six-hour grilling from South African football chiefs, Igesund said he got "a vote of confidence", but the media told a different story.

City Press newspaper quoted an unnamed South African Football Association (SAFA) official saying the end was nigh for a coach whose contract expires in mid-year.

"Even if he (Igesund) beats Brazil 5-0 it will not help his case. The decision has already been taken that he should go."

Former South Africa coach Portuguese Carlos Queiroz, ex-assistant to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United who is taking Iran to the World Cup, has been linked with the post.

When Igesund took over two years ago, he was mandated to reach the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals and the 2014 World Cup.

But Bafana were eliminated by Mali in the Nations Cup quarter-finals and failed to even reach the African World Cup play-offs,, losing out to bottom seeds Ethiopia.

Igesund needed a good show at the 2014 African Nations Championship for home-based footballers to stem criticism, but a first-round exit led sports minister Fikile Mbalula to call the squad "useless losers".

Both teams plan new looks for the game with South Africa donning a one-off, all-white strip while Brazil wear two World Cup outfits, changing at half-time.


AFP

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