Can Santana cling on to South Africa job?
South Africa coach Joel Santana has been given two more games to show progress with his side or face being fired just six months before the country hosts the 2010 World Cup finals.
A growing clamour for the departure of the 60-year-old, who came into the job 18 months ago after Carlos Alberto Parreira was forced to quit because of his wife’s illness, has been given momentum by two lethargic performances in Norway and Iceland.
Bafana Bafana lost both games 1-0 and have now been defeated in eight of their last nine matches –- the only positive was a hastily-arranged match against Madagascar last month that could barely be called a proper international but which South Africa won 1-0 to help massage the stark statistics.
This year, South Africa have scored 10 goals in 16 internationals and remain toothless upfront.
Santana is now facing a cacophony of calls for the return of Benni McCarthy, the country’s most controversial sportsman. Without a proven goalscorer he is in demand again, although Santana refuses to pick what he feels is a disruptive influence on his group.
The recent election of South African Football Association president Kirsten Nematandani initially spelt doom for Santana. Nematandani’s campaign manifesto included a promise to get rid of the unpopular Brazilian but since taking office he has tempered his stance.
The first step towards his possible dismissal by the year-end is the appointment of a group of three ‘assessors’ who will decide whether Santana is making any progress or not.
The trio is made up of two former `Bafana coaches – Jomo Sono and Clive Barker – and Gavin Hunt, who has led SuperSport United to the last two South African Premier League titles.
The ‘assessors’ won’t be making any recommendations on Santana’s competency until after the next warm-up games at home to Japan on Nov. 14 and Jamaica three days later.
Santana has done himself no favours by trotting out the same old excuses every time the team loses. Among them is a reminder that Germany, too, struggled in their build up to the 2006 World Cup finals which they hosted.
“And look how well they then went on to do,” Santana tells reporters.
But few believe South Africa have any chance of getting anywhere near the knockout round next June, nevermind the semi-final.
PHOTO: South Africa coach Joel Santana reacts at the end of their international friendly soccer match against Serbia at the Super stadium in Pretoria August 12, 2009. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko