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By Carlos Amato | Apr 30, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

KATLEGO Mphela is the kind of guy who used to sit right at the back of the class in high school with his feet on the desk.

Scruffy, cool and eternally relaxed, with a naughty, dry sense of humour. He says precisely what he thinks, and he doesn't give a damn about pleasing the powers-that-be.

But put him in front of a set of goalposts, and his languidness disappears - and the "Killer" emerges.

Mphela is a natural goalscorer, blessed with the three essential "Ps": pace, power and precision.

He has an unteachable instinct for finding the back of the net.

This much was clear to Jomo Sono when he spotted Mphela as a teenager, playing amateur football in his hometown of Brits back in 2003.

Sono signed him in a flash. Such was his confidence in Mphela's potential that he sold him to leading French club Strasbourg almost immediately, after he had made only two league appearances for Cosmos.

By Mphela's own admission he was too young, at just 19, for such a big move. Strasbourg recognised his quality, and he made a string of first-team appearances, but he never quite found his feet in France.

After being lent out against his will to Stade Reims, he became unhappy and went AWOL from the club, thus effectively ending his hopes of success in Ligue 1.

In stepped SuperSport United, then coached by Bafana assistant coach Pitso Mosimane. Back on home soil Mphela bagged 17 league goals in two seasons with Matsatsantsa: not a massively prolific record, but good enough to alert the attention of Mamelodi Sundowns boss Patrice Motsepe, who won his signature in the winter of 2008.

But due to persistent weight trouble and heavy competition for forward places at Chloorkop, Mphela made little impression in his first season with Downs.

His selection for Joel Santana's Bafana squad for the Confederations Cup drew howls of derision from commentators, who preferred leading Premier Soccer League scorer Richard Henyekane.

Mphela took just 15 minutes to silence the sceptics. It was the 3rd/ 4th place playoff against Spain in Rustenburg, and Mphela came on with half an hour to go, having played no earlier role in the tournament. On 73 minutes, he stabbed home a Siphiwe Tshabalala cross from close range. Spain duly equalised and took the lead - but Mphela struck back in the 90th minute, with the goal of the tournament: a 30m rocket of a free kick that whizzed past Spain keeper Iker Casillas.

Unfortunately Mphela's form dipped worryingly during Bafana's training camps in Brazil and Germany.

While he ran and chased with purpose and menace, he fluffed several good scoring chances due to uncharacteristic hastiness.

Mphela is too good to drop, and his form can only improve by the time the World Cup begins.

He is a player whose performances are directly linked to his confidence, and a little patience and faith on Carlos Alberto Parreira's part could be richly rewarded.


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