Tonight’s Nelson Mandela Challenge match may just be another friendly for Bafana Bafana who take on Paraguay at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, but it is still important for Stuart Baxter to try different combinations.
The match lost its appeal a little after Bafana disappointed as they couldn’t get the needed win against Nigeria’s Super Eagles in an African Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier at FNB Stadium last Saturday, leaving their chances of making it to Cameroon next year in the balance.
But Bafana will hope for a better turn-out of supporters than the less than 22 000 who attended Saturday’s match as they look to build some confidence ahead of the last Afcon qualifier away to Libya in four months’ time.
Bafana’s inspirational attacker Percy Tau who gave a stellar performance against Nigeria, admitted the result was not what they had hoped for, but said they would make amends in future, starting this evening in Durban.
“We have to do the nation proud. It is going to be a different match to the Nigeria one because they (Nigeria) came here and didn’t come at us that much,” he said.
The Nigerians used their superior physicality to frustrate Tau and his fellow attackers by overloading their defence and not allowing them to play their short-passing game.
A win for Bafana could also give their supporters – most of whom are sceptical of the team’s chances of qualifying – something to cheer about and resuscitate some hope. But they will have to up their game despite Paraguay’s recent poor run of four defeats and one win in their last five matches. Paraguay lost their last friendly 4-2 against Japan.
Tau’s performance on Saturday has, meanwhile, earned him some praise from Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr who said he should be playing in the English Premier League. Tau currently plays for Royale Union Saint-Gilloise in Belgium’s second tier, on loan from EPL side Brighton and Hove Albion.
“Congratulations to Percy Tau. I hope to see him at a big club in Europe, in the EPL or the Championship. He is a really good player. You have a wonderful player in Percy,” said Rohr who also had kind words to say about Itumeleng Khune and Thulani Hlatshwayo.