Mark Gleeson

Bafana must win at all costs

2011-09-05 07:38
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)

Mark Gleeson

Qualification for Bafana Bafana to next year’s African Nations Cup finals now suddenly looks exceedingly complicated.

From a position of strength in their group, the national team now finds itself one point behind in the standings and having to win, at all costs, its final game.

Defeat in Niger on Sunday was unexpected but all accounts a well-fought fight. I, like most South Africans who pay their annual TV licence fee, never got to see the game.

Bafana have to win against Sierra Leone on October 8 in the last group game and hope that, at the same time, Egypt can do us a favour by beating, or holding to a draw, Niger.

Ordinarily this would be something of a routine task but Egypt are now playing their under-23 side, as they are out of contention, and Niger have uncovered a hitherto unrevealed source of talent.

Pitso Mosimane has already criticised Egypt for "dumping down" on their national side but I bet any federation would do the same if the still had some competitive matches to play but no chance of qualifying. In fact they would be criticised if they did not us the opportunity to blood a new youngsters.

Egypt’s under-23 side lost away to Sierra Leone on a last minute penalty on Saturday so they cannot be all that bad. I fancy at home they will beat Niger and then we have to beat the Leone Stars to finish top.

Bafana’s now crucial last qualifier game is tentatively set for Nelspruit, which is a mistake. Not to get on the wrong side of the good people of the Lowveld, and site of one of the best pitches in the country, but the advantage of altitude is lost if the game is played there.

Instead, to give Bafana Bafana a huge helping hand, the South African Football Association must consider a venue at altitude, in Johannesburg or Pretoria. Admittedly fans support is not as good in Gauteng as it would be in Nelspruit but there is much more at stake here than a nice pay day from the gate. The association will make up any lost revenue from the gate from proceeds from being Nations Cup finalists.

At the start of the preliminaries, it would have been deemed absurd to suggest Egypt would lose all three away games and draw their first two at home.

In planning for this group they were the key factor and once Bafana Bafana had taken four points out of six points off them it seemed logical Mosimane’s men would top the standings.

But now Niger have upset the applecart and emerged as an unlikely force. It has been a Nations Cup qualifying campaign full of surprise packages, starting with our neighbours Botswana and including the Mena Stars of Niger.

Beating Sierra Leone at home would seem, on paper, to be well within Bafana Bafana’s capabilities. But after all these shock results, it is difficult to feel the necessary confidence. 

Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

Read more on:    afcon  |  pitso mosimane  |  bafana bafana
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