Spain-based defender Nasief Morris was the major omission as South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parreira named a provisional 29-man World Cup squad Friday.
The Brazilian coach picked 10 Europe-based stars, including record scorer Benni McCarthy of West Ham and Steven Pienaar of Everton, but there was no place for Morris or former Blackburn Rovers midfielder Elrio van Heerden.
Omitting Morris of Racing Santander, the only South African playing in La Liga, caused most debate and fellow defender Matthew Booth believes his fall-out with former coach Joel Santana before the 2009 Confederations Cup cost the 29-year-old his place.
“I am a bit surprised, but considering what went on with Nasief and if there haven’t been any talks before now, then you could see he wasn’t going to make it,” said Booth.
“It might sound trite of me to say this because he is in my position, but it is a pity that we don’t have our strongest team available, and he would be in mine without a doubt.”
Nineteen of the players who returned here Friday from a training camp in Germany retained their places ahead of the June 11-July 11 tournament where South Africa are in Group A with France, Mexico and Uruguay.
“We have been preparing this process for three years and a lot of factors were taken into consideration,” Parreira told a news conference.
“I’m happy with the players we have selected and I want to concentrate on them, not those who didn’t make it. I know Nasief very well, but at this moment we have to move on with the squad we have named.”
With six players to be cut before they face Mexico in the June 11 opening match, South Africa have lined up four home friendlies, including Colombia on May 27 and Denmark on June 5.
Booth, a star of the Confederations Cup in South Africa last year, had been sweating about his inclusion after being overlooked for recent matches and admitted it was a relief to be selected.
“I’m very pleased. I fought very hard in Germany to remain in contention even though the coach has stuck with the same team throughout,” Booth said.
“Once the overseas players arrive he (Parreira) will be much happier and more settled because he will be able to work towards building a starting team.
“The coach has picked a lot of players from the Confederations Cup last year so at least there will be some sort of continuity.”
Booth now faces a direct fight with SuperSport United defender Morgan Gould for one of four likely central defence spots, although Gould must first prove his fitness after an ankle ligament injury and was not named in the provisional squad.
Gould said: “They know what my situation is right now but I haven’t heard anything. I think they probably just need to assess me and find out how far I am away from fitness before the final decision is made.”
Goalkeepers: Rowen Fernandez (Arminia Bielefeld/GER), Moeneeb Josephs (Orlando Pirates), Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs), Shuaib Walters (Maritzburg Utd)
Defenders: Matthew Booth (Mamelodi Sundowns), Siboniso Gaxa (Mamelodi Sundowns), Innocent Mdledle (Mamelodi Sundowns), Bongani Khumalo (SuperSport Utd), Tsepo Masilela (Maccabi Haifa/ISR), Aaron Mokoena (Portsmouth/ENG, capt), Bryce Moon (PAOK/GRE), Anele Ngcongca (Racing Genk/BEL), Siyabonga Sangweni (Golden Arrows), Lucas Thwala (Pirates)
Midfielders: Franklin Cale (Sundowns), Surprise Moriri (Sundowns), Andile Jali (Pirates), Teko Modise (Pirates), Reneilwe Letsholonyane (Kaizer Chiefs), Siphiwe Tshabalala (Kaizer Chiefs), Lance Davids (Ajax Cape Town), Kagisho Dikgacoi (Fulham/ENG), Thanduyise Khuboni (Arrows), Steven Pienaar (Everton/ENG), Macbeth Sibaya (Rubin Kazan/RUS)
Strikers: Benni MaCarthy (West Ham/ENG), Katlego Mashego (Sundowns), Siyabonga Nomvete (Moroka Swallows), Bernard Parker (Twente/NED)
Note: Squad will be reduced to 23 players by June 1