S'Busiso Mseleku

Whoop! Well done Bafana!

2013-11-20 12:03
Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)
Why can’t Bafana Bafana play every match like they did last night against Spain?

This must be the question bothering every South African after watching the sterling performance the national team dished out against world and European champions and the No 1-ranked team in the world.

GALLERY: Bafana Bafana shock world champions Spain!

The way Bafana played was similar to their approach in coach Gordon Igesund’s maiden match against five-time world champions, Brazil.

Since then, their performances have been fluctuating, marked by their failure to progress past the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) which was hosted in this country in January, and the team’s failure to make it to the 2014 Soccer World Cup in Brazil.

However, in this game against Spain, they almost matched La Roja pound for pound, save for the possession statistic that showed a 60-40 advantage for the visitors at half-time.

This has become a norm against any team facing Spain and it was no surprise that they shaded Bafana in this aspect.

Hats off to Igesund for instilling such self-belief in the players that they got to a state where they were sure they could not only match the best in the world, but beat them.

Igesund's tactics on the day worked wonders as Bafana managed to prevent Spain from getting behind their defences as many times as they normally do against their opponents.

Sure, they did breach the South African backline on a few occasions, but not as many times as they normally do.

Itumeleng Khune showed once more why he is the No 1-choice goalkeeper and vindicated those who voted for him as Sports Star of the Year at the SA Sports Awards by pulling off a stupendous save in the last minute of injury time, to preserve Bafana’s slender lead and guarantee victory.

In fact, he never put a foot wrong in the entire 90 minutes.

Now the hard work to build on this historic victory and work on the players’ mental strength starts for Igesund.

The South African Football Association (SAFA) must rope in a sports psychologist to work with the team. After the downward spiral that has lasted for years, it surely must be very difficult to get the players to believe in themselves.

Even the euphoria that followed their victory over Spain needs to be managed. We don’t want the players becoming big-headed and think they have become world-beaters over night.

They need to take this victory as part of a building process that it actually is. They need it drummed into their heads that if they can maintain the same standard they displayed against Spain, they can gradually build themselves into being a force to be reckoned with.

This cannot happen overnight. Just as Bafana’s downslide happened over a long period since the 1996 AFCON victory, the rebuilding process will take some time.

Since then, Bafana slid down from winning. Silver medals in 1998, bronze in 2000, quarter-finalists in 2002, first round in 2004, same in 2006 (with no goal nor a single point), first round in 2008 and failure to qualify since 2010.

After making their maiden World Cup appearance in France 1998, they again bombed out of the first round in 2002 and then failed to qualify for 2006 and only made it by virtue of being hosts for the 2010 version and have now failed to qualify for 2014.

Surely this must have done a huge psychological damage that needs to be reversed and this can only be done through a thorough and well-orchestrated process.

Igesund needs to manage the process closely and not set a foot wrong. He has the African Nations Championships (CHAN) in January, the 2015 and 2017 AFCON editions to use as building blocks for the 2018 Soccer World Cup in Russia.

For now, it needs to be focus Bafana Bafana, focus.

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.

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:    bafana bafana  |  s’busiso mseleku  |  soccer

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