Bafana down among dead men
Siphiwe Tshabalala (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - A fresh confidence crisis has engulfed South Africa’s national soccer team, a situation that is seeing them slip at a rate of knots to ignominious status among the rats and mice of the game on our continent.
Their bankruptcy both in the results column and in cutting-edge performance in recent months was only underlined in Gaborone on Saturday as another set of cheeky, whole-hearted relative minnows - neighbouring Botswana, population two million - could not be subdued.
A second successive 1-1 draw against opponents ranked significantly below them in the African pecking order leaves the once-proud Bafana Bafana precariously placed with a miserly two points a third of the way through their Group A preliminary qualifying journey for Brazil 2014.
Rubbing shoulders with the potential likes of Messrs Messi, Neymar, Ronaldo, Ozil and Van Persie at the next World Cup looks frighteningly unrealistic right now; there are no obvious signs that South Africa are about to transform magically from paupers to princes, are there?
The group was supposed to be a pretty undemanding one for them, possibly taking them without due fuss to the more demanding climax phase of African qualification for 2014.
Even the more tortured, weather-beaten of Bafana monitors of the past few years had seemed within their rights to assume that the team at least representing an African powerhouse in non-football terms would be able to winkle out home-and-away supremacy over Ethiopia, Botswana and the Central African Republic.
Starting with the Ethiopians at home and Botswana just up the proverbial drag in their own terrain, a roaring start was on the cards before the likely stiffest part of their programme: a home date with the “Wild Beasts” of the Central African Republic on March 22 next year and then follow-up return trip to the presumably unwelcoming tropical cauldron of Bangui on June 7.
Admittedly these are fairly distant challenges in calendar terms, which must be banked as some sort of blessing, but with such lamentable work achieved on building the supposed “cushion” on the table by then - Bafana really ought to sport four or six points by now, not two - there is going to be real pressure for them to achieve a very minimum requirement of winning one and drawing one of those games.
Anything less and the writing may well on the wall, even before the final two obligations (the Ethiopian away fixture on June 14 2013 and home tussle with Botswana’s Zebras on September 6).
Already you suspect that Bafana are going to have to hope this quartet somehow develops into a bit of a group of miserable death, with topsy-turvy results somehow keeping them in it to the very last round, rather than one team getting a major jump on the rest.
Perhaps the most perturbing aspect of Bafana’s performance on Saturday, even after the psychological comfort of Morgan Gould’s well-taken headed goal from a corner in the 14th minute, was how they only progressively receded instead of seizing control - especially in the second half where the Botswana defence was actually less consistently stretched than in the first.
In what basically amounts to a fairly meaningless crumb of comfort, South Africa really ought to have netted twice or three times before the break, which would have all but sapped Botswana’s spirit despite their securing of a goal themselves a morale-boosting seven minutes from half-time as hesitancy and jitters in the visiting rearguard was exploited.
Instead the wasteful or indecisive shooting of Siphiwe Tshabalala, Katlego Mphela
and much later on substitute Teko Modise
- who ballooned a good chance to bury the tie laughably high and wildly - from smart set-up work ultimately cost Bafana dearly, whatever you may say about the bumpiness of the pitch.
You could almost see the face of caretaker coach Steve Komphela
sag like a slowly dropping petrol gauge as the game wore on.
After all, although there is a certain naivety and immorality to judging a man on one performance, he will have quietly known that his charges’ very failure to win this one will - either consciously or subconsciously among those judging him - have only adversely affected his own crack at securing the post more permanently.
If Gordon Igesund
indeed feels he genuinely has the stomach to take on this portfolio, his own shares must have risen appreciably with this latest boo-boo across the border ...
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