Shabba needs to shape up, or …

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To be honest, every time he received the ball against Brazil, I thought to myself, ‘oh no, here goes the end of this move’.

His passing was awful, his touches awkward, his decision-making indecisive, and when trying to beat a defender, he showed neither imagination, skill, nor pace.

MATCH REPORT: BRAZIL 1 SOUTH AFRICA 0

There was a moment early on when Siboniso Gaxa broke through on goal and was forced to shoot from a tight angle. Look at the replays and you’ll see Tshabalala hiding behind a defender instead of busting a gut to get to the goal line for what could have been a tap-in.

Shabba’s name has dominated chat forums this weekend, with most readers agreeing the Kaizer Chiefs man was off-colour.

However, I’m not jumping on the band-wagon here – this was not a once-off, and I have for some time being saying and writing that the Chiefs winger does not offer nearly as much as he should to the national team. How much has he really done for the team post THAT World Cup strike?

Tshabalala has the habit of scoring a wonder goal every now and then; that and his celebrity status appear to be the only reason he remains a starter for the national team.

The player turns 29 later this month, and it’s time that some tough decisions are made on his immediate international future. And, in respect, it was interesting to note that Gordon Igesund did not hand him the captain’s armband (or, in Brazil’s case, sticking plaster), in the absence of Steven Pienaar.

Igesund had to have noticed Shabba was struggling in Sao Paulo, and one would like to believe that it was an attempt at man-management that allowed Tshabalala to stay on the field; the coach not wanting to destroy the player’s morale and confidence.

It’s perhaps true that at this stage there are no natural left wingers putting up their hands to take his place. Hopefully when Pienaar returns he’ll be slotted in there. In the absence of the Everton man, why not move Thulani Serero into that position, or indeed Lerato Chabangu – giving either player free reign to drift across the park?

Serero and Chabangu were Bafana’s best attacking players. We all know what Serero is capable of, and now we are being reminded of why Chabangu was so highly rated before he lost the plot.

What a pleasure it is to see him enjoying football, and life. The Swallows player is a highly intelligent footballer, always taking the best option. Strong on either foot, his marker is never sure which way he will go. Some of his touches, his clever turns, were world class, and he left Brazilian defenders trailing in his wake more than once.

The omission of Tshabalala would also open up space for an additional attacking midfielder – an Andile Jali, a George Maluleka, a Reneilwe Letsholonyane (when on form), or a Daylon Claasen. Right now any of these players would bring more to the party.

Staying in midfield, I thought Dean Furman had a decent game, although not all readers agree. Granted, he didn’t set the match alight, but his work-ethic brought something to the side – his reading of the game and closing down of spaces were part of the reason Brazil failed to find their rhythm.

The defence should also take credit for this – Siyabonga Sangweni was excellent and carried the demeanour of an international reaching his 100th cap, despite being relatively inexperienced at this level. But there are still issues to be ironed out – on two or three occasions Neymar was given far too much space and we were lucky that he was having a bad night, and that Itumeleng Khune was not.

Moving to attack, Igesund has been severely hamstrung (like Benni was – surely his last game?). But the plus point is that we appear to finally achieving some depth in this area.

Bernard Parker, fourth or fifth choice, came on and did well, creating several problems for Brazil and neatly setting up a goal, while Dino Ndlovu showed presence and promise in his cameo.

When Katlego Mphela, Siyabonga Nomvete and Edward Manqele are fit again, Igesund will be spoilt for choice.

Finally – should we be happy with the result, and is Igesund right to be pleased?

I believe not. Okay, we avoided an embarrassing defeat to one of the world’s best, who we forced into what was for them a sub-standard showing. And yes, we showed promise, and played with more heart and with more purpose.

But based on the actual game; the chances we created, we should have come away with a draw – we were only 15 minutes away from achieving that and should have showed more steel in the latter stages.

By Anthony McLennan
Follow me on Twitter: @soccer_ant

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