Cape Town - The 2015 Africa Cup of Nations has been quite fabulous thus far. While goals have come at a premium in Equatorial Guinea, generally the quality of football has been of a high standard.
The changing face of African football, which incorporates the flair as well as the physicality, has come about owing to the large number of European coaches at the helm of teams on the continent.
Against Algeria - a team coached by Frenchman Christian Gourcuff - I thought Bafana Bafana dominated so much of the match. I really felt sorry for Shakes Mashaba and the players after the defeat, because for 15 minutes before half-time and 20 minutes thereafter, it was all Bafana Bafana.
South Africa delivered a classy display against the top-ranked side in Africa, but were unable to put the game to bed. The defining moment of the match came as a result of the missed penalty.
Missing spot-kicks happens in football. I missed penalties during my career and so have many of my players, past and present. The debate over whether Tokelo Rantie was the right or wrong player to take the penalty is counterproductive. I have always believed that the player who is the most confident on the field at the given time is the best man to take on the responsibility of the spot-kick.
It must be said that Doctor Khumalo didn’t have the greatest record when it came to penalties, but I trusted him the most. In terms of taking the perfect penalty, my advice is simple: Pick a spot and know where the ball is going before striking. I’ve long believed that speed will always beat reflex.
Even after the penalty mishap, Bafana had at least three really good chances of adding to their solitary goal. If there’s one critique, at the height of their dominance I would have liked to have seen South Africa take the play away from Algeria, slow the game down, put their foot on the ball and keep possession.
I’m a fan of the midfield pairing of Dean Furman and Andile Jali, who is my favourite player. The duo generally control everything in the middle of the park but when Bafana went 1-0 up, I would have liked to have seen Jali stamp his authority on the game more owing to his overseas experience gained from playing in the Belgian Pro League.
What kills most coaches is when the public and pundits alike say, “Why did you sit back and defend when you scored your first goal?” Make no mistake, I’m not saying sit back and retreat into a defensive mode, I’m suggesting that you rotate the ball, place an emphasis on your passing game and guard against pushing out into uncertain areas. And finally, the key is to get in-behind the ball so that you dictate terms and control your own destiny.
I believe control stems from a core group of leaders with the experience to adapt to various match situations. While I’m not trying to go back and revel in those days past, as a coach I was blessed to have been able to call upon leaders of the calibre of Neil Tovey and Lucas Radebe in the same era.
Neil was a very mature player and fantastic leader both on and off the field. His communication and organisation on-field was excellent. Off the field, he also had a special touch. I can recall him putting his arm around each of his teammates at breakfast and offering a quiet word of encouragement.
While Furman is a young international captain, I like him in a leadership role. I believe that he will become bigger and better the more he plays for and leads Bafana Bafana on the world stage.
Casting an eye towards South Africa’s must-win match against Senegal on Friday night, the West Africans will prove a different kettle of fish to Algeria. The Teranga Lions will play a more direct game than the Desert Foxes and, by and large, are a more physical team. All-round they are quicker than they used to be and won’t be without the flair that has made them strong over the last 20 years.
Immaterial of the most recent result, I like the whole setup at Bafana. I feel that the team is moving in the right direction and I just hope that Bafana don’t go back to wanting to bang the ball all over the place, because that’s not our game. Our strengths are our mobility, pace and neat inter-passing.
Clive Barker coached Bafana Bafana between 1994 to 1997, leading the side to their first and only AFCON title in 1996.
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