must-win for bafana
Bafana Bafana get a chance to redeem their tarnished image at the expense of rejuvenated Malawi in an international friendly at Germiston Stadium at 7pm tonight.
This comes after the down-and-out Bafana were beaten 1-0 by Guinea in a friendly at Atteridgeville early this month.
Prior to that game, Bafana Bafana had failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations finals for the first time since 1996.
The beleaguered Bafana Bafana coach, Joel Santana, has tried to justify the failure to qualify by saying he was preparing the team for the 2010 World Cup.
Malawi have done well in the qualifiers, hammering Djibouti 8-1, beating champions Egypt 1-0 before losing 1-0 and 2-0 away to DR Congo and Egypt respectively.
Congo and Malawi, who are second and third placed respectively on the log, have nine points each, with The Pharaohs topping the group on 12 points.
For The Flames to qualify for the finals of this biennial soccer spectacle in Angola, they will have to beat the Congolese by any margin. The last time Malawi qualified for the finals was in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in 1984 where they bombed out in the group stages.
Malawi's coach Kinnah Phiri plans to use today's game to sharpen the team for the all-important clash against Congo in Blantyre on October 11.
On the same day, Bafana Bafana will be away in the capital Malabo for an insignificant qualifier against Equatorial Guinea.
Just like Santana, Phiri has opted for local is lekker by not including the four overseas-based players, whom he will recall for the big one against Congo.
They are Essau Kanyenda (Kamaz, Russia), Russel Mwafulirwa (IFK Norrkoping, Sweden), Chikondi Kadzombe (Molese, UK) and Dan Chitsulo (Weiss Ahlen, Germany).
Seven South African-based players have been included in Malawi's squad for this game, which will make matters even more difficult for Bafana Bafana.
The seven players are Josephy Kamwendo (Orlando Pirates), Swadwick Sanudi (Dynamos), Peter Mponda (Black Leopards), Moses Chavula (Nathi Lions), Robert Ng'ambi (Black Leopards), Tawonga Chimodzi (Santos) and Jimmy Zakazaka (Bay United).
Today's game is a must-win for Bafana if they are really serious about bringing their latest habit of losing to an end.
The more the once unstoppable Bafana Bafana lose, very few people will bother to watch their games, especially where there is an entrance fee of R20 like today.
The focus in this game will be on the in-form Bernard Parker to transfer his club appetite for goals into the national team.
Other players capable of bringing a smile - for a change - on the South Africans include Teko Modise, Gert Schalkwyk, Thulasizwe Mbuyane and Siboniso Gaxa.
It emerged that former captain Mbulelo Mabizela has gone AWOL again, with team manager Sipho Nkumane having no clue where he was.
To view a video of Bafana Bafana in training, log on to www.sowetan.co.za