Poland chance for panel-beating
BAFANA Bafana want to hustle Poland in their own back yard in tonight's tough international friendly here.
Following a worthy 1-0 defeat against Brazil and less impressive 2-0 win over Mozambique in his first two matches, Bafana coach Gordon Igesund faces a stern test tonight.
Igesund's defensive emphasis has been on not allowing Poland to play the way the White and Reds want to at the imposing national stadium, the 58000 Stadion Narodowy, which the Polish FA said is expected to be near-full.
The Bafana coach wants his players to be in the Poles' faces, while in attack continuing the more aggressive, direct style Igesund is seeking from the national team.
Poland disappointed with their exit in the first round of Euro 2012 as hosts in June. They've grown in strength in the first three matches under Waldemar Fornalik, who replaced Franciszek Smuda as coach, losing 1-0 to Estonia before a draw away against Montenegro and 2-0 home win over Moldova.
This might have been a match that Igesund never really wanted - he would have preferred to meet strong African opposition in the build-up to the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa in January. But the coach has enjoyed the time spent with his players in world-class training facilities. In hindsight the game against tough European opposition, and even the cold conditions (temperatures in Warsaw have hovered around 4ºC to 6ºC at night), could turn out to be the right fit for Bafana as Igesund tries to panel-beat a squad into shape for the Afcon.
"I think that the opposition is going to be very tough. We're playing under difficult conditions, very different to African football," Igesund said yesterday. "It's always great to play against a top European country. There's no doubt Poland have got world-class players.
"We maybe could have got African opposition but I doubt they would have been strong enough for us, because most of the African teams are involved in qualifiers for the Afcon. This game is going to give us that test we need to see how far we've come."
Poland are a more competitive team than their 54th ranking suggests. Key players are the Borussia Dortmund pair of striker Robert Lewandowski and midfielder Lukasz Piszczek. The Polish coach might opt for a mixed-strength combination in advance of Tuesday's far more important World Cup qualifier against England.
But Bafana look set to give Poland a tough game. There is a new energy in the squad. Igesund has selected players on form - a youngster such as Dino Ndlovu was able to start against Brazil and there has been a call-up for 34-year-old Delron Buckley. Additions such as Dean Furman and Slovakia-based Ricardo Nunes, who has impressed with his set- pieces in training, have excited the Bafana players. In the first Bafana match since the international retirement of Steve Pienaar, Igesund said he was undecided between Lerato Chabangu and Sifiso Myeni for the right wing in his 4-3-3 formation.
Bernard Parker should lead the attack, with Siphiwe Tshabalala on his left while Dean Furman and Kagisho Dikgacoi in central midfield appear certainties. So do Nunes at left-back, and Siyabonga Sangweni and Khumalo in central defence, with Thabo Nthethe likely to start at right-back.
Possible Bafana line-up: Khune, Nthethe, Sangweni, Khumalo, Nunes, Dikgacoi, Chabangu, Furman, Myeni, Parker, Tshabalala.
Kickoff is at 8.45pm. Live on SABC1
Poles lose their skipper
OLAND have been dealt a blow ahead of tonight's friendly international with South Africa after skipper Jakub Blaszczykowski was ruled out of the game through injury.
The winger was carrying a knock from the weekend draw with his German Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund at Hannover and will not be fit enough to take part. He will also miss Poland's 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifier against England on Tuesday.
Veteran Anderlecht star Marcin Wasilewski is tipped to take his place against Bafana as the natural replacement, having amassed more than 50 caps in a decade with the national side.
Goalkeeper Przemek Tyton has been battling with a niggle this week and is doubtful for the game, which could see a return to the starting line-up for former Manchester United player Tomasz Kuszczak, now with Brighton & Hove Albion in the English Championship.
Poland's goalkeeper coach, Andrzej Dawidziuk, said even if the 25-year-old Tyton was fit, they may opt to use Kuszczak for his greater experience.
"Tyton has complained of an injury, but I hope that he will be all right for the match against South Africa," Dawidziuk said. "Friday's meeting is part of the preparations for the match against England and both Kuszczak and Tyton have their pros and cons. We still have some time to take a final decision."
Hannover forward Artur Sobiech is hoping Poland coach Waldemar Fornalik uses two strikers against South Africa, so he can start.- Nick Said