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Page last updated at 17:33 GMT, Sunday, 31 May 2009 18:33 UK

Radebe fears Santana exit

By Piers Edwards
BBC Sport, Johannesburg

Lucas Radebe
Radebe fears for the future of Santana

Lucas Radebe believes South Africa coach Joel Santana could lose his job if the hosts disappoint in next month's Fifa Confederations Cup.

Bafana Bafana kick off the event against Iraq on 14 June, before facing New Zealand and Spain in Group B.

"If we do badly at the Confederations Cup, Santana could be out of a job because that's how South Africans are," the 40-year-old told BBC Sport.

Radebe added: "The fans will judge you by the performance on the day.

"It has happened before with Jomo Sono, Ephraim 'Shakes' Mashaba and other coaches, so I'm afraid it can happen again," the former national team captain said.

"It would not be a great thing, especially at the eleventh hour, for once the coach changes, the team, morale and confidence all change and that destabilises the team."

South Africa has previous form in such matters, most notably when Mashaba was sacked the day before Bafana Bafana left for the 2004 African Nations Cup following criticism of his squad selection.

The side then failed to reach the second round for the first time since winning the tournament in 1996.

Now the pressure is on Santana, the Brazilian who has won seven and lost six of his 15 matches, to show his team is making progress.

With South Africa in the competition's weakest group - Group A features Brazil, Italy, Egypt and the United States - expectations are high despite the poor form in recent years.

"We can get into trouble if we think the group is easy but Iraq and New Zealand won't be easy as they didn't make it here by chance," said Radebe of the Asian and Oceania champions respectively.

"We've got to focus on ourselves and make sure we perform well - and if they are indeed weak, let's show that on the field.

"It's been said we have to improve but this is not the time to improve any more - this is a time to win games convincingly to show we are ready for a World Cup.

"For so long, we've been changing this and that but that time has finished - it's time we know the team.

"The problem is you never know what will happen once they enter the field of play."

The 1996 Nations Cup should have been the platform for us to take off but the focus was only at the top

This is in stark contrast to the Bafana Bafana of Radebe's day, who were not only crowned African champions but also qualified for both the 1998 and 2002 World Cups.

Yet, South Africa have gone backwards in recent years, to the point where the 2010 World Cup hosts have embarrassingly failed to qualify for next year's African Nations Cup.

The former Leeds United defender lays the blame on decision-makers at the South African Football Association in years gone by.

"The 1996 Nations Cup should have been the platform for us to take off but the focus was only at the top, which was very wrong," said Radebe, Bafana Bafana's captain at both their World Cup appearances.

"We never started at grassroots level and built from there to achieve progress, which has led to the decline of our football and it has hit us hard.

"You need to have a 10-year plan and then work on your goals according to that structure - that's how you achieve success, but we never did it."

The Confederations Cup gets underway in Johannesburg on 14 June, with the final taking place in the same city a fortnight later.

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see also
Radebe recovers after heart scare
23 Dec 08 |  African
Radebe quits South Africa
28 Aug 06 |  African
Radebe gives World Cup assurance
08 Jul 06 |  African

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