MPHELA needs to fire

GERMANY - Goal-starved 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa hope Katlego Mphela can rediscover his predatory instincts when they face Jamaica in a warm-up game in Germany tonight at 8.30pm.

GERMANY - Goal-starved 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa hope Katlego Mphela can rediscover his predatory instincts when they face Jamaica in a warm-up game in Germany tonight at 8.30pm.

Bafana Bafana drew 0-0 with Jamaica in Bloemfontein in November.

They have managed just five goals in six internationals since veteran Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira returned last November for a second spell in charge.

And even this meagre return paints a complimentary picture as three goals came in the second half of a Durban friendly two months ago when depleted Zimbabwe fell away.

Mphela, from Mamelodi Sundowns, was seen as the solution to a problem that has grown progressively worse as South Africa slid down the Fifa world rankings to 88 this month.

But after scoring consistently since given a chance last June in the Fifa Confederations Cup, a World Cup dress-rehearsal, Mphela claimed just one of those five goals.

Mphela rarely threatened North Korea during a goalless friendly in Frankfurt last Thursday and looked a shadow of the striker who struck terror into European champions Spain less than a year ago.

The powerfully built 25-year-old claimed the outstanding goal of the Confederations Cup, drilling a stoppage-time free-kick past Real Madrid icon Iker Casillas from well outside the penalty area.

Mphela had earlier put South Africa ahead with a close-range tap-in during a third-place play-off Spain won 3-2 in Rustenburg, thanks to a Xabi Alonso extra-time goal.

The leading 2009-2010 South African Premiership scorer with 17 goals has become increasingly important to the World Cup hosts, with Benni McCarthy battling to regain his fitness and form at English outfit West Ham United. McCarthy, who regularly falls in and out of love with Bafana Bafana, has made peace with Parreira and is sure to be included in the 23-man squad for the first World Cup staged by Africa.

But whether the 32-year-old leading Bafana scorer can deliver goals against 2006 World Cup runners-up France, Mexico and Uruguay in Group A is questionable, given his rare appearances for the Hammers as a substitute.

Jamaica, 10 places above South Africa on the world rankings, are last-minute replacements after China pulled out, citing travel difficulties triggered by the recent volcanic ash-induced closure of European airspace. - Sapa-AFP

X