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Page last updated at 16:03 GMT, Friday, 23 October 2009 17:03 UK

Will Benni save SA?

Jonathan Pearce
By Jonathan Pearce
BBC football commentator

South Africa's Football Association have re-appointed Brazilian World Cup winning coach Carlos Alberto Parreira as their new national coach to replace his unloved compatriot Joel Santana.

Benni McCarthy
McCarthy was dropped for the Confederations Cup earlier this year

The first job for Parreira in his second spell in charge must be a phone call to Benni McCarthy.

Though their record together wasn't earth-shattering, Parreira did understand that McCarthy was crucial for South African hopes.

Unless the Blackburn Rovers striker is recalled, they will be in danger of becoming the first World Cup hosts ever to crash out in the first round.

Even though McCarthy has played only 23 games in an injury-blighted 2009, scoring just seven goals, and has missed far too many internationals over the last seven seasons, he is still the best South Africa have got by a long way.

Parreira will have to heal a rift caused by the player's omission from the Confederations Cup squad after his decision to stay in England during the build-up to this summer's competition.

The hosts did better than most people expected in what was a dress rehearsal for the World Cup finals. They lost to eventual champions Brazil in the semi-finals and to European champions Spain in the third and fourth place play-off but they still didn't look a good team. No-one up front was in the same class as McCarthy.

There was talk of Santana being sacked even then. His taciturn manner with the press and his failure to grasp any of the many languages of the country alienated him from many supporters.

A run of five defeats in six friendlies this season during which they have scored just twice finally brought the parting of the ways by "mutual consent".

He was South Africa's 15th coach in 16 years - that is a ludicrous record.

Santana had replaced his compatriot Carlos Alberto Parreira who stepped down in April 2008 because of his wife's ill health.

Without McCarthy, I just can't see South Africa scoring goals

Parreira, who led Brazil to their 1994 World Cup crown, had signed off with a 3-0 win over Paraguay with McCarthy among the scorers.

The Ewood Park forward has scored a record 31 goals for his country in 76 internationals. He provides the extra spark that is needed on the major international stage.

Only midfielders Steven Pienaar and Kagisho Dikgacoi shone for them at the Confederations Cup and the forwards looked totally out of their depth.

Bernard Parker (22 caps - seven goals) has had a torrid time settling in at Steve McClaren's FC Twente and looks more suited to a deeper role anyway.

Back home, Katlego Mphela of Mamelodi Sundowns (19 caps - six goals) has scored nine in 11 club games this season and three of South Africa's goals in their last five games, but looks short of world stature.

Katlego Mashego (13 caps - one goal) of the Orlando Pirates was restricted to cameo roles from the bench in the summer tournament and has featured just once since. They won't trouble too many defences at the finals.

Of the players looking to break into the final 23-man squad, Mabhuti Khanyeza, was ineffective as a substitute in this month's defeats in Norway and Iceland, and hasn't scored for his country in 10 appearances while Sthembiso Ngcobo has just three caps to his name at 26 years of age.

Former South Africa coach Joel Santana
Santana's reign as South Africa coach was less than happy

Without McCarthy I just can't see them scoring goals.

So the national executive committee of the South African Football Association needs to persuade Parreira to recall the 31-year-old.

If they do then Benni and the Jets might yet be a summer hit for South Africa.

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see also
Why Santana had to go
20 Oct 09 |  African
SA and Santana part company
19 Oct 09 |  African
Santana's SA future in doubt
11 Oct 09 |  African
Last fan standing
02 Oct 09 |  Everton
South Africa coach under fire
01 Oct 09 |  African
McCarthy axed by Bafana coach
07 May 09 |  African
McCarthy withdraws from SA squad
24 Mar 09 |  African
McCarthy blasts Safa bosses
01 Aug 08 |  African

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