New South Africa coach Joel Santana warned on Monday that the host team will succeed at the 2010 World Cup only if the country unites behind them.
“I cannot do anything by myself. Success will be possible only if we work together,” stressed the 59-year-old Brazilian charged with transforming the squad from African middleweights to world heavyweights within two years.
The former Flamengo coach seemed aware of the often hostile South African reaction to his appointment last month as he held his first press conference at national football association headquarters here.
Santana is taking over a country rated only 13 in Africa after being recommended by fellow Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira, who resigned last month to be with his ill wife in Rio de Janeiro.
The choice of a second Brazilian coach angered local coaches and media who believed the post should have been advertised and given to an English-speaking coach with national team experience, preferably South African.
Among the critics was Clive Barker, coach of the 1996 African Nations Cup-winning team and also in charge when Bafana Bafana (The Boys) reached the World Cup finals for the first time one year later.
Apart from coaching numerous Brazilian clubs, Santana has worked in Japan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and although the Portuguese speaker has limited English, he does not believe it will create problems.
“How is it possible I worked in Saudi Arabia without speaking Arabic? Or in Japan without speaking Japanese? I worked in these countries because football is a universal language,” he said.
Africa will have six teams – five qualifiers plus hosts South Africa – at a World Cup for the first time in 2010 and Santana considers this an overdue reward for all the gifted footballers produced by the continent.
“Football in Africa is developing year by year with many extremely talented footballers on the continent. The challenge for coaches is to get the best out of them tactically and technically,” he stressed.
South African football officials embarrassed Parreira last year by allowing him to begin work without government authorisation and Santana displayed his passport with a work permit stamp to dispel fears of another PR disaster.
Santana faces a debut from hell on June 1 as South Africa confront bogey team Nigeria away in the first series of 2010 World Cup-African Nations Cup qualifiers.
Not having seen Bafana Bafana in action, he will rely on assistants Pitso Mosimane and Brazilian Jairo Leal when naming his squad on Wednesday for a match in a pool completed by Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Although automatic 2010 World Cup qualifiers as hosts, South Africa must compete because the matches double as eliminators for the Nations Cup in Angola five months earlier.
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