Bartlett blow for Bafana
Johannesburg - Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter could only shake his head in frustration when he announced that he might be minus his leading goalscorer, Shaun Bartlett, for Sunday's crucial 2006 World Cup qualifier against Ghana in Kumasi.
It is the second blow to fall on Baxter after the withdrawal on Monday of first choice goalkeeper Hans Vonk through injury.
"Bartlett has a sick child at home. I am not sure what is wrong with his youngster. I could not ask any father to be away from home playing soccer if his child needs him. Having said that, I had hoped if the illness was not too serious, Bartlett would join the squad before the weekend," said Baxter after a lengthy two-hour training session at the FNB Stadium yesterday.
The squad leaves for Kumasi on Saturday morning.
Life goes on and Baxter will sorely miss the experience of the Charlton Athletic striker Bartlett to lead his attack. The job of partnering the speedy Italian based Siyabonga Nomvete in the two pronged attack, will go to "Big" George Koumantarakis of England's Preston North End.
Koumantarakis is itching to get into the starting line-up and showed at training yesterday that he is ready to step into Bartlett's boots.
He looked particularly deadly in front of goals. Baxter can also use Sibusiso Zuma as an extra striker but, said Baxter, "Zuma gives me an extra option with his versatility. However, he is not 100% match fit after his hamstring injury and may not last the 90 minutes. But he has quality and will be able to do an important job for Bafana wherever I play him."
Baxter will be working on set pieces for the remainder of the week. He believes that is how he will be able to open up the Ghana defence.