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Football News | Jun 11, 2004

Benni McCarthy unlikely to make Ghana clash

.iafrica

Porto striker Benni McCarthy is looking unlikely to be available for Bafana Bafana for next weekend's crunch World and African qualifying game against Ghana in Kumasi.

The Cape Town-born striker missed last Saturday's 2-1 win over Cape Verde Islands due to his wedding, and he now appears likely to miss the Ghana match due to him being on honeymoon.

McCarthy's absence from last week's game was noticeable as both Shaun Bartlett and Siyabonga Nomvete had games that they would rather forget, although in their defence they were not given a lot of support from the midfield.

Baxter has been trying to convince the Portugal-based striker to aid the country's cause by making himself available, but at present he has not made any breakthroughs.

However, McCarthy's agent, Rob Moore, told the Star newspaper that it is unlikely that Benni will feature in the Ghana clash.

"There were some good discussions between Benni and Baxter. We are waiting for him (Baxter) to say how he wants to take things forward. I can't see him playing against Ghana though, as he's just got married and is on honeymoon. The coach knows that," said Moore.

Meanwhile Baxter is expected to make a number of changes to the squad that was disappointed in Bloemfontein, despite the win.

The England-born coach, who seems to be acquiring the nickname of 'Chuck Norris', also mentioned that Steven Pienaar, Sibusiso Zuma, Bradley Carnell and Jacob Lekgetho would all be available for the game.

"Steven Pienaar will definitely be travelling to Ghana with the team next week. Sibusiso Zuma will probably be in the squad, as the FC Copenhagen medical staff have given us the go-ahead to play him," said Baxter.

Pienaar would most probably start in the middle of the park with 'Old-John' Mabizela, Orlando Pirates' Bennedict Vilakazi, would be unlucky to be sacrificed as he had a solid game in Bloemfontein.

Baxter has also voiced his concerns over the lack of match fitness some of Bafana Bafana's overseas-based stars displayed last week.

"I was concerned about the fitness levels of the players. That was the reason I gave each player in the Bafana squad a fitness programme to follow strictly while they are on holiday," he said.

"I will assemble the squad on Monday and begin training next Tuesday and I expect the players to arrive in a fit condition.

"The players are professionals and, while I realise this is their break, it is also vital we qualify for the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany."

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