Bafana Bafana

Acid test for Bafana against SWC quarter-finalists

2015-09-21 14:27
Shakes Mashaba (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Not the joyful ride to San Jose that the hit musical song promises, but a tricky encounter in the compact northern town of Liberia when Bafana Bafana launch a friendly, but in many ways critical, two-game friendly programme against world 39th-ranked Costa Rica on Thursday, October 8.

This will be followed by a match-up against a seemingly less difficult encounter against  82nd world-ranked Honduras on Tuesday, October 13 for the 72nd world-ranked Bafana, who will be hoping to restore a measure of respectability to a reputation seriously tarnished by embarrassing results against Gambia and Mauritania in African Nations Cup qualifying games.

Under-pressure Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba will be announcing his squad for the two-game venture into Central America on Tuesday with the knowledge of an unpalatable record of being only the 17th-ranked team in Africa in spite of enjoying comfortably the best facilities on the continent - and the urgent need to improve both his team's reputation and rankings.

The Costa Rica and Honduras games fall in a period designated by FIFA for international matches, so Mashaba will be able to select his strongest available squad.

But then so will Costa Rica, whose team could include a number of foreign-based stars of the calibre of Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Neves and Arsenal striker Joel Campbell.

Nothing less than a creditable performance by Bafana against the awkward and well-organised Costa Rica and a victory over the less formidable Honduras will suffice  - not forgetting that Costa Rica reached the quarter-finals of last year's World Cup in Brazil and then were only beaten by The Netherlands via a penalty shoot-out following the extra-time draw.

More recently, Costa Rica have only won one of their last five matches, but this was against South American powerhouse Uruguay, with drawn games against El Salvador and Canada and narrow, 1-0 defeats against teams from the top echelon in Brazil and Mexico.

Significantly in these five games, despite the quality of their opponents, Costa Rica only conceded three goals - so scoring for Bafana in Liberia will in all likelihood be fraught with difficulties.

Honduras have lost three of their last five games against the United States, Ecuador and Haiti, but all these matches were played away from home and materialised as closely-fought encounters, with a stunning 3-0 win over a tough Venezuela at home proving they are no pushovers.

Meanwhile, Mashaba's selection on Tuesday will be of more  particular importance than usual, with the return of former Kaizer Chiefs and NFL "Footballer of the Year", Tefu Mashamaite, who has launched a successful career in Sweden, standing out as one way of bolstering Bafana's prowess.

Also, sure to attract attention, is whether the Bafana coach now retains Itumeleng Khune as captain, or sticks stoically to his rotation policy in this respect - and also if he places greater emphasis on including active and in-form players in his selection.

Read more on:    bafana bafana  |  sy lerman  |  soccer

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Bafana Bafana have been drawn with Cameroon, Gambia and Mauritania in the qualification stages for the 2017 AFCON tournament. Where will Shakes Mashaba's men finish in their pool?

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