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Who are Bafana's best XI?

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Mphela: Main man up front

Mphela: Main man up front

As AFCON 2013 draws ever closer, Football411 tries to get inside the mind of coach Gordon Igesund, wondering who his preferred starting XI will be.

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The omissions of Sifiso Myeni and Andile Jali were surprising. As was the decision to only take two experienced centre-backs to the competition.

But other than that Igesund has selected a pretty decent-looking squad for the continental show-piece.

With Katlego Mphela back to lead the attack, and with home-ground support, there is no reason why we cannot make at least the last four.

Choosing a team is an easy task in the comfort of the air-conditioned office. For Igesund, there will be a lot of sweat, maybe even some blood spilled and some tears shed before Bafana take to the field for their opening match against Cape Verde on January 19.

Here's Football411's take on the selection conundrum:

GOALKEEPER: Itumeleng Khune. An easy selection. No obvious flaws to his game, the Chiefs man is getting better with age and experience as he eradicates the odd slip of concentration from his game. He is one of the best distributors from the back in world football.

RIGHT-BACK: Anele Ngcongca. Originally a midfielder in his early days at FC Fortune, Ngcongca is solid at the back, comfortable on the ball, and his European experience has given him a great tactical awareness.

CENTRE-BACKS: Bongani Khumalo and Siyabonga Sangweni pick themselves as the only two central defenders with international experience in the squad of 23. Thabo Nthethe could deputise, but is very green at the highest level, while Ngcongca could also step in should there be an injury.

LEFT-BACK: Thabo Matlaba is an exciting player, but may not yet be ready for the rigours of AFCON. Therefore it will be Tsepo Masilela that takes to the field. Masilela has struggled with injury and form over the last year, but when at his best, he can be a world-class full-back.

RIGHT WING: Igesund has some tough choices to make in midfield, and also does not have too many natural wingers. It's for this reason that the versatile Thulani Serero could be employed as a right-sided midfielder, where his speed and guile will be an asset.

CENTRE-MIDS: It will be up to Dean Furman to anchor the midfield, in what is a very attacking side selected by Football411. The Oldham man has shown he is capable of doing that, thanks to his calm demeanour, preference for the simple pass and his leadership skills on the park.

Reneilwe Letsholonyane offers so much when he's on song, setting up and scoring goals. He can also defend, and will need to stick fairly tightly with Furman in order not to give opposition midfielders too much leeway.

LEFT-WING: Siphiwe Tshabalala will likely start there - the Shield deodorant man appearing to be an automatic starter under any national team coach. He's the only natural left-winger in the side. Shabba though needs to raise his game several notches, his performances of late for South Africa having been poor.

STRIKERS: Like Khune and Serero, Mphela picks himself. A goal-scoring record of nearly a goal every other game in around 50 internationals says it all.

Bernard Parker and Lerato Chabangu can both play in the hole behind Mphela. Both are capable of setting up goals and scoring. Of the two, Chabangu is the one more likely to fall back and help in defence, which in this very attack-minded line-up, would bring some more balance to the side.

By Anthony McLennan

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Posted: 04/01/13 09:01

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