quality foes for bafana

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

Bafana Bafana coach Joel Santana plans to play against some of the world soccer superpowers to assess their readiness for the 2009 Confederations Cup.

Addressing the media after the Confederations Cup draw, Santana said the friendlies against Brazil and Italy will help them a great deal.

The hosts South Africa are in Group A with Iraq (Asian champions), New Zealand (Oceania) and Spain (European champs). Brazil (South America) are paired in Group B with Egypt (Africa), United States (North America and the Caribbeans) and Italy (world champions).

Bafana Bafana play their first game against Iraq at Ellis Park Stadium on June 14, with Egypt taking on Brazil in Bloemfontein the next day.

"We already have 80 percent of the team that we believe will do the job, one will have to find out which countries will be available for the games," said Santana.

"The draw is a tough one. We are going to play against some of the best teams in the world who are not coming here to walk around."

Santana said it was important for Bafana Bafana to do well in this tournament as part of the preparations for the 2010 World Cup.

Spain's coach Vicente del Bosque said: "I'm very pleased with the draw. We don't know much about South Africa, Iraq and New Zealand but we are going to do research.

"We are coming here to make it to the final."

Jorvan Vieira, Iraq's coach, said his charges, who all play in various parts of the world, will surprise many people during the tournament.

"There are about 40 Iraqi soccer professionals outside the country. Yes, there were problems in Iraq a few years ago but it's fine now,' he said.

"We've already arranged a game with Italy. The plan is to come to South Africa early to play matches against some of the local clubs."

Egyptian coach Shehata Hassan said they were looking forward to the tournament, despite being paired with Brazil and Italy.

Frank van Hattum, New Zealand FA president, warned people not to write them off.