Pienaar: 'This is a chance to make history and we have a vision we can do it' - International - Football - The Independent

Pienaar: 'This is a chance to make history and we have a vision we can do it'

Hosts' talisman says Bafana Bafana can at least reach the quarter-finals ahead of Mexico opener tomorrow

Wayne Rooney and Steven Pienaar have more in common than just Everton Football Club. Both are also carrying the hopes of their respective nations on their shoulders this week as the World Cup finally kicks off.

But while Rooney, who started out at Goodison Park, is well-versed in his status as England's talisman, the role is relatively new to South Africa's Pienaar. Always seen as one of the most naturally talented players from the country, most Bafana Bafana fans will tell you it was not until last year's Confederations Cup that the diminutive midfielder came of age.

Having made his debut in 2002, he struggled at international level and did not play a single minute of that year's World Cup. After South Africa were eliminated, Pienaar was castigated in the press when he was overheard joking with a colleague that "at least we can go home now".

Saturday's friendly against Denmark saw Pienaar finally win his 50th cap, although remarkably he has scored just two goals – against Burkina Faso in 2004 and Uganda a year later. Now, after some scintillating performances as South Africa made it to the semi-finals at the Confederations Cup last year and his excellent displays for Everton, the weight of expectation will be upon him as the World Cup hosts face Mexico at Soccer City tomorrow. "It took time, but eventually I got more confidence to express myself at the Confederations Cup. I felt enough was enough of people criticising me that I don't play with my heart for the national team and only for my club," reflected Pienaar this week.

"Now we have the World Cup and it's a big ask but I know I have my team-mates to support me. We have to be together and hopefully we can satisfy the people by doing that. When the team is playing good and we are winning, there won't be any talk about just Steven Pienaar, it will be the whole team."

Known as "Schillo" in these parts, the 28-year-old's performances for Everton over the past two seasons have seen his profile – and his trademark cornrow haircut – explode on the global stage. Doubts over his commitment to stay on Merseyside have followed his failure to sign a new contract but Pienaar was quick to praise the effect manager David Moyes has had on his career. "I've often wondered when he gets chance to go to sleep because he is the hardest working manager I've ever come across," he said. "The gaffer has always been there to help me. He's the one who took me to England and had a lot of confidence in me. When someone shows you that kind of respect you really want to pay them back someday."

A testament to that is Pienaar's stated ambition is to score more goals for both club and country. A sumptuous chip over Arsenal's Manuel Almunia back in January showed his hard work has paid off for Everton and now the aim is to replicate that form for South Africa.

He said: "I think it's because I'm more of a team player but my coaches have always wanted me to score more goals. I've been trying to be more selfish and shooting instead of passing sometimes and my composure has definitely improved. But I would be happy if I didn't score any and the team won."

A victory tomorrow would surely ignite Bafana's campaign amid the wild enthusiasm that is sweeping the country. Parallels have already inevitably been drawn with the victorious 1996 African Nations Cup team. Now the onus will be on the boy from the tough Johannesburg suburb of Westbury to consign their legend to the past.

"We all have a lot of respect for the class of '96. I know it's going to be hard for us to emulate that," he said. "This is our chance to make history, although the second round would not be enough for me. I think we have to get further than that. We have a vision that we can do it. Now we have to show it on the field."

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week