Bafana Bafana

Bafana: Just one goal needed?

2014-10-16 11:30
Shakes Mashaba (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – South Africa have shifted a bit nearer the edge of a knife in terms of Africa Cup of Nations 2015 qualification ... though they also remain tantalisingly close to not having to worry about sharp instruments of destruction at all.

Wednesday night’s soggy, humdrum goalless draw with Congo in Polokwane keeps all four teams in Group A still mathematically in with a chance of securing tickets to Morocco next year – even bottom-placed Sudan with one win and three losses could still sneak into the top two if they unexpectedly win both of their last two games and rocket to nine points.

But it is the Sudanese, quite possibly, who also hold the all-important key to Bafana Bafana’s onward passage.

In short, a home victory for SA over those humble foes on November 15 – just 1-0 would do very, very nicely – absolutely guarantees qualifications for Bafana, as moving from eight to 11 points would be enough to clinch the deal, regardless of whether the national side then ends in first or second on the table.

Third-placed heavyweights Nigeria, back in winning ways after beating Sudan 3-1 on Wednesday, can only get to a maximum of 10 points with two fixtures left.

So the huge priority for Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba in the next few weeks is to iron out the one quirky flaw in his otherwise improving charges – a struggle to score home goals (current tally zero) in contrast to their ability to rattle the bag elsewhere (five, including gratifyingly three away to Sudan).

Perhaps he is right in saying that his often greenhorn players have found it “less pressured” performing in more central parts of the continent than in satisfying the expectations of a home faithful reasonably well-schooled in recent doldrums years, let’s face it, in ridiculing them.

The one noticeable plus from the Polokwane game played in heavy rain and sometimes thunder and lightning was that for a fourth group clash on the trot, Bafana kept a clean defensive sheet.

They are now the lone holders, among 28 African teams, of a perfect record in the “goals against” column – previously watertight Senegal finally blotted their copybook in Group G as they conceded a 94th minute winner to hosts Tunisia in a vital match, knocking them down to second behind the Tunisians.

Given this reassuring parsimony at the back, it seems fairly unlikely that labouring Sudan will spoil the SA record in mid-November ... only adding to the tantalising thought that just one bullet from 30 yards out or an ugly, deflected toe-poke in a goalmouth melee may well be enough to see Bafana through to Morocco next month.

The match has only gained in importance, because not only would failure to beat the FIFA world 133rd-ranked Sudan at home put a serious dampener on the recent renaissance mood sparked by Mashaba’s methods, but it would load the heat on Bafana to possibly have to achieve something that has often before proved so well beyond them: winning in Nigeria.

South Africa must throw everything at Sudan, and certainly display greater urgency and conviction than they did at Peter Mokaba Stadium, to ensure that their closing toughie against a hoodoo team is about as dead as the proverbial dodo ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    bafana bafana  |  shakes mashaba  |  soccer

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