Bafana Bafana coach Joel Santana heaped praise on his new striking sensation Bernard Parker after the Swedish bound striker scored the winner in Bafana’s 2-1 victory over Ghana in a friendly international played at the Free State Stadium on Wednesday night.

Parker who jetted off to join top Swedish club Malmo on trial after his stunning header earned Bafana their deserved win over what was a Ghana B side.

Parker came on as a late substitute and made his presence felt when he thudded home Teko Modise’s corner in the 78th minute to net his third goal in as many matches. He was playing in his 10th international but the 22-year-old, who was born in Boksburg, has blossomed this season at Durban based PSL outfit Thanda Royal Zulu where he has been in prolific scoring form.

Said a happy looking Santana after Bafana notched their third successive win: “Parker is a very important player to Bafana. What is important about him is that he was given the opportunity at this level and has grabbed the chance. He is disciplined and just the sort of player I am looking for. He has shown what can be achieved. I will be giving other players a similar chance but I am delighted to see how much Parker has improved and what he now means to the squad.”

Parker scored twice in the 3-0 friendly win over Malawi at the Germiston Stadium two weeks ago and came on as a late substitute in the 1-0 victory over Equatorial Guinea in a tough 2010 African Nations Cup qualifier in Malabo last weekend.

On the night, Bafana were too good for the Ghana second string who were flattered by the scoreline. But the Black Stars’ striker, Yaw Antwi, took advantage of a shocking refereeing decision by the fast asleep Zimbabwean referee Kanias Marange to score in the 39th minute.

However, Benni McCarthy cancelled the goal out a minute later when the Blackburn Rovers’ striker netted his 31st international goal.

Said Santana: “It was another good game and win for us. Ghana played well they are a good side but we deserved this win. The plan we have developed to build the side to compete at next year’s Confederations Cup and the 2010 World Cup is coming together. I am more than happy that we are on the right track.”

The Brazilian born coach faced a storm of criticism after Bafana failed to qualify for the 2010 African Nations Cup finals in Angola but after a hat-trick of wins he can start sleeping a little easier. Said Santana: “I was happy that the defence was solid, we created a lot in midfield thanks to Teko (Modise) and Siphiwe Tshabalala and in attack we looked stronger. We are improving. These matches are vital to me to help the players gain experience.”

Santana will not care a bit that Ghana failed to arrive with their European stars. This match goes down as a win for Bafana in the Fifa record books and will help South Africa start to move up the Fifa ladder after falling to their lowest ever ranking – 85th last month.

What was also interesting was the way skipper Aaron Mokoena and Russian based Matthew Booth combined as the heart of the defence. Booth, who is captain of his Russian club Krylya Sovetov, was named Man of the Match for the second time in his Bafana comeback. He was given the same award in last month’s 1-0 loss to Guinea at the Super Stadium. Booth replaced Spanish based Nasief Morris and looked solid and commanding alongside the Blackburn Rovers defender, Mokoena. Morris now has a serious challenger for his position.

But Santana would not be drawn on his near defensive pairing: “I do not like to single out individual players but more players are showing improvement and others are coming through to stake their claims for a place in the squad to play in the Confederations Cup.” Santana stressed that he wanted to create a team of players who are proud to wear the Bafana jersey. Said the head coach: “We have two friendly matches to complete this year before I finalise my squad for the Confederations Cup squad. But we still need patience but at this stage things are starting to take shape.”

Bafana play Namibia at the Germiston Stadium on November 4 and Cameroon in the Nelson Mandela Challenge at Loftus on November 19 to end their 2008 programme.