Don't leave it in fate's hands
Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)
Bafana Bafana’s 2-0 win over Angola on Wednesday night was a good tonic for a nation reeling under the bad performance in their 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) opener.
While I celebrated the win, I was shocked by how many seemed to believe it meant that our beloved national team was already through to the next round.
Fact is, Bafana Bafana can still lose out on a berth in the last 16 if they lose to Morocco, and Cape Verde - who played their hearts out and came close to winning in their 1-1 draw against the Lions of the Atlas (or is it Atlas Lions?) - beat Angola in their final Group A match.
Based on their performance, Cape Verde are capable of mauling The Palancas Negras (Black Panthers).
In this scenario, Morocco and Cape Verde would finish on five points thus shading South Africa by a single point and then go through to the last 16 of the tournament.
What this means, as it so usually does in football: Bafana Bafana’s fate is in their hands!
While a draw would be enough to see them through, I suggest that a win will always be better.
Which brings up another question: When will our national football team learn to take their fate in their own hands from the first game of any tournament?
Had they won the opening match at the National Stadium, we will be telling another story now. Coach Gordon Igesund would now have the luxury of resting some of his key players as he would be preparing for the second round.
Something else that has come out in the first phase of this tournament is that goal-scoring doesn’t seem to be only South Africa’s problem. A number of African countries have fizzled in front of goal.
Of the 10 opening round matches, only Ghana and DRC managed to produce four goals in a 2-2 draw followed by Ivory Coast and Togo who scored three goals between them as The Elephants won 2-1.
The two opening matches on Saturday - South Africa v Cape Verde and Morocco v Angola - ended in goalless draws.
All in all the 10 pairings produced 17 goals at an average of 1.7 goals per match.
I couldn’t help but chuckle at South African Football Association (SAFA) president Kirsten Nematandani assurances that Igesund’s job would be safe even if his charges do not make it t the semi-finals.
Remember that when he signed the contract he was given the mandate to at least reach the semi-finals of the AFCON.
However, as it is always the case with our football, there was no mention of any sanction should he and his charges fail in their mandate. So much for setting goals.
The learned Nematandani found it opportune to remind us that the mandate goes further and says Igesund must qualify the team for the 2014 Soccer World Cup in Brazil.
So just like it happened with Igesund’s predecessor, Pitso Mosimane, if he fails his matric exams, he will go further and try for a Bachelor’s degree. How sweet.
All one can say to Bafana Bafana is that they should go out there and beat the daylights out of Morocco and not rely to other teams to do them favours.
We are tired of having to fetch our calculators and work out the permutations on what needs to happen for our team to at least reach the next round of the tournament.
It’s been a long time since this happened. Eleven years to be exact when they were bundled out of the quarter-finals by hosts Mali in 2002. Since then, it has been a downward spiral, getting knocked out in the first round in 2004, 2006 and 2008 followed by failure to qualify for 2010 and 2012.
Here is an opportunity brought by SAFA by securing the host status. Don’t let it slip through your fingers Bafana as we do not know when next we will qualify for the AFCON finals. 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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