Bafana squad takes shape
Sport24 columnist S’Busiso Mseleku (File)
With four matches and a 50 percent win record under his belt, Gordon Igesund should by now have an idea of how his team will look for next year's Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
And following the 1-0 loss to Poland in his third match in charge as national coach, he should be sensing that the honeymoon will soon be over. Write-ups that followed that match were not as glowing as those from his 1-0 defeat to Brazil and the 2-0 win over Mozambique.
Questions started emerging and there are a few who are already saying Bafana Bafana are going nowhere, slowly. Even the hard-fought 2-1 victory over Kenya (last Tuesday night), did not go a long way into disproving this as the team huffed and puffed.
Some are also questioning the wisdom of playing a friendly in Europe at 10 degrees Celsius and then travelling to east Africa to play in conditions of 28 degrees.
Igesund will have to swallow and bite his lower lip as South African soccer fans and the media have proved to be very fickle over the years. In fact, this is not only confined to soccer, but Mzansi’s sports fans generally.
One good thing Igesund has done, however, was to cast the net very wide and dispel this myth that has existed for a long time - and one must add that this has been to the detriment of the team - that the South African soccer national team belongs to a few individuals.
The coach’s search has unearthed England-based Dean Furman who can easily be described as the best find this time around. The player introduced himself with aplomb in his first appearance for the country against Brazil.
And as the cliché goes, he has never set a foot wrong since.
Dino Ndlovu, who was substituted after 13 minutes against Brazil with a shoulder injury, has still to prove why he is in the team and in the few appearances he has made, has so far not done a lot to secure a permanent place in the national team.
A lot was expected from new cap, the Slovakia-based left-back, Ricardo Nunes. However, except for his top-class taking of free-kicks, he has been found wanting when it comes to defending and helping with attacks.
He was heavily blamed for Poland’s goal as he should have stopped the winger from making the cross in the first place. His lack of pace is of concern and many people thought Mamelodi Sundowns’ Punch Masenamela would have done even better.
With Tsepo Masilela - currently the best left-back in the country - having recovered, there should be some stiff competition for this position.
In fact, Igesund’s approach has created a very good competitive spirit within the team and this was seen with Wayne Sandilands being selected ahead of Moeneeb Josephs to mind goals following an injury to No 1 choice, Itumeleng Khune.
The coach has four more friendly matches to go before the tournament starts on January 19 and this should give him ample time to settle for the team that he believes will deliver and help him meet the mandate given to him by the South African Football Association (SAFA), to reach at least the semi-finals at the competition.
One crucial match is the Nelson Mandela Challenge against African champions Zambia scheduled for next month. This match should serve as a real barometer of where Bafana Bafana are with their preparations for the tournament.
Another big challenge for Igesund will be the underperforming well-established players. Already, the jury is out on Kaizer Chiefs winger Siphiwe Tshabalala. Many feel that the player has made very minimal contribution to the national team since his Soccer World Cup goal against Mexico in the opening match of 2010 at FNB Stadium.
Which brings me to my final question: Are we going to see a squad made up of tried and tested players, new players or a combination of both when Igesund announces his final squad of 23?
This will be known come December. Just watch this space!S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.
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