Mark Gleeson

Early Christmas for Bafana

2011-08-01 07:13
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
Mark Gleeson

After the last two draws pitting Bafana Bafana with Nigeria and then Egypt, there has been a dramatic turn of fortune for the national side.

Saturday’s World Cup draw in Rio de Janeiro produced an early Christmas present for the country as it was handed the softest of opponents for the group phase next year.

Bafana Bafana were pooled with Botswana, the Central African Republic and the winner of a preliminary round tie between Ethiopia and Somalia, that will be played in November. 

It is arguably the best combination that could possibly have come out of the pots for Pitso Mosimane, who went to Rio’s Marina do Glorio for the draw. He must have fought the temptation to punch the air in delight.

According to, Mosimane had this to say to reporters in Brazil after the draw: “For sure it’s kind of a good group for us. I’m sure the other teams are not happy to have us in the group. It will be hard, though.”

‘Kind of a good group?’ Geez it’s happy days! We’ve got lumped with a bunch of minnows in the most important competition in world football.

Botswana might have qualified for the African Nations Cup finals for the first time but they are no threat. The Central African Republic have only had one major win in football, fortuitously for them recently enough to rise them far enough in the rankings to miss the list of bottom placed teams and therefore November’s first round.

Ethiopia and Somalia did not make the cut and must play off in November. Somalia cannot play at home because of their civil war so it is likely they’ll have just one game with their neighbours. Ethiopia should win, with some comfort.

Their best player is Fikru Tefera, released by SuperSport United at the end of last season because he was not good enough for the Premier Soccer League.

Botswana’s best players are in the PSL and as a result their side has come on in leaps and bounds recently. The Zebras have shocked even themselves with their rapid progress from obscurity. They have qualified for the African Nations Cup finals already, the first side to do so. But it is their first time too and does not make them an overnight force.

It is not beyond Bafana Bafana’s ability to win all six games in the group, both home and away, rack up a 100 percent record and be well placed to do the business in the real qualifiers which come in the final round, over two legs against a fellow group winner.

If anyone was looking for Santa Claus at the weekend, he was obviously in Brazil.

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:    fifa  |  pitso mosimane

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