Bafana Bafana must believe
Sport24 columnist Mark Fish (File)
Seventeen years ago we were crowned champions of Africa. Prior to the tournament not many South Africans gave us a chance of lifting the trophy.
The reason we believed we could win the tournament in 1996 was because of one man - Clive Barker. He made us believe we could beat anyone.
So with a full stadium, a coach we were prepared to die for and a nation in need of upliftment, we stormed out of the blocks playing with determination, flair and commitment. Once we beat Cameroon in our opening encounter, we as players developed belief. That 3-0 victory certainly set the tone for the rest of the tournament.
In my opinion, Bafana Bafana have played well under Gordon Igesund and look like a team again. But notably the side is still not scoring goals. In order to do so they need to play from the back, use their pace on the wings and get the ball into the right areas to create goals. This can only be achieved if the players make the right decisions and do not put too much pressure on themselves. I’m confident that if they keep creating chances the goals will follow.
The set-pieces, particularly the corners against Algeria, were very poor and there is no doubt Bafana will have to work on that, especially when they have the height of Bongani Khumalo and Siyabonga Sangweni at their disposal.
The set-pieces takers have to ensure that their delivery is top notch. There might only be one or two great chances in the game, so the players have to ensure they use them.
The Khumalo-Sangweni partnership is the strongest centre-back pairing available to Igesund, but I would like to see one of them really carrying the ball forward, to create a bit of confusion for defences. Playing the long ball like they did against Algeria didn’t really work.
I don’t expect there to be many personnel changes from Bafana's most recent line-up. In terms of tactics, I’m a firm believer in a 4-4-2 formation. Even if Igesund goes with a 4-5-1 formation, I expect Thulani Serero to be utilised behind the main striker to add some creativity and allow for more freedom.
For me playing both Kagisho Dikgacoi and Dean Furman in the midfield somewhat stifles our attacking intent as both are defence-minded players. For me Dikgacoi doesn’t get forward enough.
When I played for Bafana not many people knew that we employed a 3-5-2 formation. At times, I was more in attack than defence and the coach allowed that leeway.
A player that has caught my eye is Tokelo Rantie. He’s young so full of energy and makes good runs and causes defenders problems.
For me the first 30 minutes against Cape Verde will be crucial. They may be a largely unknown quantity, but we’re aware how they qualified and which leagues their players ply their trade in.
While they're a team we need to respect, it’s key that we take the game to them and put them under as much pressure as possible.
Believing in each other and the coach is the way forward and the only way the current side can go on to lift the trophy against more fancied teams like Ghana and favourites Ivory Coast.
While the public are entitled to their opinions, unfortunately booing is a very bad trait which has developed in South African sport. That said, I’m aware that the only way the public will get behind the team is if they perform. It’s up to the players to put in the performances and then the results will follow.
In 1996, we just went out and enjoyed the experience. Cameron were highly-ranked in Africa and many predicted we’d lose, but we all performed out of our skins owing to the support we received.
So let's believe and support the boys!Mark Fish, capped 62 times for South Africa, was a key member of the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations-winning side.
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