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Beyond Brazil '14 - Bafana's Midfield Question

With Bafana Bafana having no involvement in yet another World Cup later this year in Brazil, a debate has raged about how the national football team must look ahead to the next tournament in Russia in 2018. 

In edition 867 of Soccer Laduma, Gordon Igesund pointed out that using older players such as the likes of Reneilwe Letsholonyane wouldn't make sense in qualifying, in terms of planning for the long term future.

Nonetheless, although the in-form Letsholonyane would be both close to 35-years-old by 2018, World Cup qualification begins at least two years before the event. 

This means using an experienced in-form player in central midfield like 'Yeye' during qualification might make sense beyond Brazil 2014. However, do his numbers compare well against other players in his position for Bafana?

We looked at our exclusive Soccer Laduma stats to see how Letsholonyane compares to more established younger central midfielders in Gordon Igesund's Bafana line-up. In recent times, the pair more commonly used have been Dean Furman and Andile Jali.

It appears from the games we analysed at international level, 'Yeye' hasn't perhaps been taking his usually consistent club form to Bafana.

The 31-year-old makes just 37 successful passes per game on average and trails both Furman and Jali in this category. The composed Furman makes 47 passes per match while Jali makes 44. 

'Yeye' also puts in far less tackles than either of the pair - the Kaizer Chiefs star makes just 1.8 succesful tackles per game while Furman (Doncaster Rovers) averages 3.8 and the combative Jali (Oostende) achieves four. This seems to show his normally high workrate isn't there for Bafana. 

The Soweto-born workhorse also isn't as effective as penetrating the final third with some accurate passing. He trails behind Furman who finds a target in danger areas on 7.4 occasions per match. 

What these numbers seem to suggest is that the younger guard in central midfield are already more effective than Letsholonyane, and that perhaps using 'Yeye' beyond the 2014 World Cup is not the way forward. 

Having said that, if the experienced player can bring his always generally excellent club form to Bafana, Igesund may have to seriously consider him for the qualifying campaign for the tournament in Russia in 2018.

In the latest edition of the paper, 'Yeye's' stats showed him to be one of the best performing midfielders currently in the PSL - he outperforms younger stars such as Bongani Zungu (Mamelodi Sundowns), Oupa Manyisa (Orlando Pirates) and Themba Zwane (Black Aces). 

Yet, until that club form translates to the national side - it could be that his days, and other players in their 30s as well, are already numbered on the international stage.

Have your say -  as we look beyond Brazil '14, is it time to use only youngsters looking ahead to the 2018 showpiece? 

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