Some of South Africa’s most talented footballers ply their trade in the current squad’s midfield. Gordon Igesund has highlighted the need for South Africa to play fast-paced attacking football, which can only be generated from the middle of the park, with short passing and movement being of utmost importance for the national side.
Bafana Bafana certainly have the reserves in the midfield to trouble top African nations during the tournament, but whether or not the squad has time enough to gel and form a potent midfield force remains to be seen. What follows is a brief look at some of Bafana’s most important elements in their squad.
The majority of fans may have wanted to see Andile Jali’s name appear in the Afcon squad but his Orlando Pirates teammate’s current form, passing ability and aptitude to control the game from the centre of the park meant Manyisa made it into the final 23. Manyisa can score goals and even though he has not found the back of the net for South Africa, he has been known to strike important goals for Pirates.
The Buccaneers favourite has been prolific during his time in Soweto, helping his club side to two treble winning seasons in a row. He may only be in the Bafana Bafana squad as cover for the likes of Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Dean Furman, but Manyisa will hope he can make an impact as a substitute during the tournament.
The Oldham Athletic midfielder has been something of a revelation since making his debut against Brazil. He brings European experience to the South African midfield, be it only from the second tier of English football. He has shown he can be a rock in the midfield against the likes of Brazil and Poland, often helping Bafana build attacks from deep in their own half with his vision and passing.Furman has made sacrifices in deciding to play for South Africa over staying in England during the Africa Cup of Nations. He has seen representing the country during the tournament as the pinnacle of his career, which is the kind of commitment and passion Bafana Bafana will need throughout the Afcon.
Dikgacoi has been a powerhouse for Crystal Palace this season, helping the Championship side fight for promotion into the Premier League. The defensive-minded player was given the opportunity to branch out and look for goals, which shows his versatility and importance to the national side.
Igesund has employed Dikgacoi in his more familiar role as a defensive midfielder, due to his strength and ability to hold the ball and control the game in Bafana’s half, but his newfound goal-scoring ability should help South Africa to create more scoring opportunities when they need them. Dikgacoi has matured into a midfield general during his time in Europe.
“Yeye” has become a vital cog in Bafana’s midfield with his ability to pull the strings in the middle of the park, as well as his impact going forward, where he can provide defence-splitting passes and release Bafana’s attacking players.
He has scored one goal for South Africa and twelve for Kaizer Chiefs during his career, showing his game is not all about controlling the midfield. Yeye has been in red-hot form this season for Chiefs helping his side hang on to top position on the PSL log, with slick passing and excellent link-up play with his teammates.
Serero has been hailed as Bafana Bafana’s “Messi”. This comparison is pretty apt, as the Ajax attacking midfielder certainly has the talent and the pace to trouble any defensive line-up in the world. Serero can hold onto the ball and provide mesmerising runs and is also a goal threat due to his explosive movement in the final third.
With the retirement of Steven Pienaar, Serero is South Africa’s creative force. Even though he may not feature throughout every game due to his recent return from injury, his mere presence on the pitch will help Bafana to find goals.
One of South Africa’s brightest talents, Mahlangu has been a vital player for his club side Helsingborg, where he helped them secure a league and cup double in 2011 and was named Swedish League Player of the Year. Mahlangu has not been given many chances to shine for Bafana Bafana, but from what we have seen of the midfielder, is it obvious he is going to be one of the country’s top players in the future.
Largely used as a substitute by Gordon Igesund so far, Mahlangu has shown fantastic technique and movement in the midfield, supplying incisive passes to the likes of Tokelo Rantie. His unerring penalty strike against Malawi shows he possesses composure, which is much needed in the South African ranks.
Not many will ever forget Tshbalala’s superb goal against Mexico in the opening game of the 2010 World Cup, a vicious strike which almost helped South Africa secure a win against the Mexicans. The winger has scored many similar goals during his career at Kaizer Chiefs with his educated left-boot. His experience in major tournaments and cutting-edge in the final third means Tshbalala is still a vital player for South Africa, even though he may not always perform to his potential for the national side.
His 6 goals for Bafana may not be prolific, but his threat down the flanks relies on his pace and crossing ability which should still benefit South Africa as they search for goals during the tournament.
Moroka Swallows’ attacking midfielder has formed a potent partnership with Katlego Mashego for his club side this season, which portrays what his game is all about. Chabangu possesses a great creative ability in front of goal, as he is able to cut in from the wing and provide pinpoint passes to his attacking partners.
He is an experienced hand in South African football and Gordon Igesund will be counting on the midfielder’s vision in the final third, as well as link-up play with his teammates. Chabangu may not have scored a vast amount of goals for South Africa, but he can create scoring opportunities for the side.
What many have considered a surprise addition to the squad, the Platinum Stars winger has certainly shown that he is worthy of his spot with a man of the match performance against Norway. Phala’s pace is explosive and he is able to combine this speed with a potent crossing ability.
Even though eyebrows were raised when Phala’s names was found on the team sheet, Igesund’s selection will have been justified due to the wingers effective play down the right flank and his stamina. He has been a leading light for the surprise league package Platinum Stars and will hope he can continue to turn heads with his current form and effectiveness in the final third.