Durban - Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund was disappointed to have missed out on World Cup qualification on Saturday, but pleased with the strides South Africa was continuing to make under his guidance.
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South Africa needed to win its final qualifying game to have any hope of reaching the global spectacle next year, which they did 4-1 against Botswana in Durban.
But Group A leaders Ethiopia, who Bafana needed to either lose or draw against Central African Republic (CAR), were instead 2-1 victors.
“I’ve got mixed feelings because I’m absolutely thrilled with the progress the team is making and the players that are coming through,” Igesund said afterwards.
The result enabled the East Africans to top the pool and reach the final 10-team qualifying stage at the expense of the hosts, who ended second.
It nonetheless rounded-off a promising campaign that began poorly in 2012 and led to the sacking of Igesund’s predecessor Pitso Mosimane.
But Igesund believes the country can be proud of its national team, particularly after its demolition of Botswana on Saturday.
“If I take a step backwards, I don’t think anybody is to blame for us not qualifying," Igesund said.
“That’s just how it happened, the ball didn’t quite roll for us in the beginning.
“I’ve been involved for four games and we won three of them and that’s what’s hurting. It’s so unfortunate. But things happen in life for reasons.
“We accept that, even though there’s obvious disappointment, and we’ll move forward. We’ve got a lot to look forward to with 2015 (African Nations Cup) and 2018 (World Cup).”
There was no faulting Bafana Bafana at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, where Kermit Erasmus and man-of-the-match Dean Furman gave them a comfortable half-time lead.
Jerome Ramatlhakwane pulled one back, before Kaizer Chiefs forward Bernard Parker scored a free-kick and a penalty in the closing stages to seal the win.
Igesund also confirmed he wanted to remain in the role, despite not fulfilling seemingly impossible targets initially laid out to him by the SA Football Association (Safa).
Safa wanted Igesund and Bafana to qualify the national team for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the semi-finals of the African Nations Cup on home soil earlier this year.
“I had mandates, which were not reached,” he added.
“But I couldn’t have done more. I’ve got a contract until 2014.
“Whatever anybody wants to do or say, they’re entitled to do that. I know that after the African Nations Cup, I was told by Safa that they were very happy with the way things were going and I should continue until 2014.
“So the way I see things, there are no mandates, I’m here until 2014 unless something else happens.”
Igesund, whose camp was rocked by the axing of Thulani Serero on the eve of the clash, revealed after the game that the player wanted his coaching staff to lie about an injury so that the Ajax Amsterdam star could avoid getting injured ahead of a European Champions League game for his Dutch club this week.
Bafana will travel to Johannesburg on Sunday ahead of a friendly against Zimbabwe at the Orlando Stadium on Tuesday.