santana is still upbeat

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

ABUJA - New Bafana Bafana coach Joel Santana is still confident of doing well in their preparations for the 2010 World Cup despite a dismal performance in their 2-0 defeat by Nigeria in his first official match in Abuja on Sunday.

The man, who also goes by the new name of "Guitar Man", once more emphasised that it was important for Bafana Bafana to qualify for and do well during the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Angola.

As the hosts of the 2010 World Cup, South Africa has qualified automatically for the quadrennial tournament but they will have to qualify for the continental event where the top three countries in each group will go to Angola.

As if he was watching a different match, Santana showered his charges with praise in a post-match media briefing for what he described as "playing a good game".

"It was a good game, but Nigeria had some good opportunities. This competition is just starting. Nigeria did a good job in their opening game at home and we will also do a good job on home soil," he said.

"Even though we were only able to train for one week [for the game against Nigeria], I think it was a good performance by our players. You have to understand, we are just starting with the qualifiers.

"We are going to host the World Cup and will do a very good job. From the way we played, tactically it was a great game and I'm proud of them [Bafana Bafana]," said Santana, through an interpreter.

Though it was not one of the best matches, the once unstoppable Super Eagles were all over a disjointed Bafana Bafana throughout and are early favourites to finish on top of this group.

As for Santana, the Brazilian is now under pressure to do well in their second game against Equatorial Guinea at Super Stadium in Atteridgeville on Saturday.

This comes after Equatorial Guinea started their qualifiers with a bang by beating Sierra Leone 2-0 in Malabo on Sunday. Nigeria are away in Freetown this weekend for a game against Sierra Leone.

Asked if he missed wayward striker Benni McCarthy, who has been given the month of June to sort out his life, Santana said: "I would not like to talk about McCarthy at all. It does not help me to talk about a player who is not here."

Santana made it clear last week, after meeting McCarthy, that it was the last time he would be talking about the Blackburn Rovers striker's problems.