With his classy skills, slick passing and astute positional play, Thulani Serero looked every inch a star in one of Europe’s top leagues. It was extremely strange when Serero was left out of Bafana’s squad last month for the games against Nigeria and Sudan. And it was just as heartening when he was restored to the squad for the upcoming battles with Congo-Brazzaville.
Bafana showed plenty of fight against Nigeria in Cape Town, but if there was one factor they missed in midfeld it was someone with the art of penetration, with the eye for a precision pass through an opposition defence.
Shakes Mashaba perhaps tacitly acknowledged this in bringing Serero back into the fold. And now all that is left is for the Bafana coach is the next step – Serero must play in both games against Congo-Brazzaville.
Serero might have had a run-in with Bafana in the past, and with Gordon Igesund in particular, but in qualifying campaigns it is quite simple – you need your best players on the pitch.
With this in mind, it was heartening to see that Mashaba did choose Serero in an apparent ‘first XI’ in morning training. And the Ajax man delivered, with one assist for a Tokelo Rantie goal, and one sublime take, turn and glide away from his man standing out.
Elsewhere, in this ‘first XI’, Tefu Mashamaite partnered Eric Mathoho in the heart of the Chiefs defence.
In the absence of Anele Ngcongca, it makes perfect sense for Mashaba to turn to this established Amakhosi pairing against Congo-Brazzaville. The Kaizer Chiefs defence has been astonishing this season, with just one goal conceded from open play in 12 games.
Elsewhere, my main concern is still in attack. Rantie has plenty of pace, but too often seems to make the wrong decision with the ball. And Bongani Ndulula works hard, but I am not sure he is the ultimate answer in front of goal.
It is extremely hot in Phokeng today, ideal preparation for the game in Pointe-Noire. It is also good that Bafana have occasionally trained on an artificial surface, which is what they will be playing on at the Stade Municipal.
The main issue from the players with regards to the artificial surface seems to be the heat it generates in their feet. The game in Pointe-Noire seems destined to reach boiling point this weekend, in more ways than one.
It is my hope that Bafana can emerge triumphant, setting themselves up perfectly for Wednesday’s return match in Polokwane.
My Bafana starting XI: Meyiwa; Hlatshwayo, Mashamaite, Mathoho, Matlaba; Masango, Jali, Furman, Serero; Erasmus, Ndulula.
Would you like to place a soccer bet? Click here to get started in 3 easy steps.