Bafana Bafana

Bafana loss too ghastly to contemplate

2015-11-13 14:44
Shakes Mashaba (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Failure, it has been contemplated with a good deal of justification, is a proposition to ghastly to contemplate as Bafana Bafana prepare for the two-leg, second round qualifying games against Angola away from home on Friday and at Durban's Moses Mabhida Stadium next Tuesday.

In its stark reality being upstaged by the Angolans would summarily terminate the possibility of South Africa gaining a place in the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia, with success in the fateful two games in the next five days by no means assuring that this eventuality will indeed materialise.

What it will earn for Bafana is a challenging place among 20 countries who will participate in the final round of fixtures to decide which five African Nations actually find their way to Russia in 2018.

This will be achieved by the 20 participating counties being divided into five groups of four by CAF, with the eventual top team in each group making their way to Moscow and such-like.

But "Mission Moscow", as it might well be termed, is likely to be paved with obstacles even more imposing the diligent Angolans will pose for Bafana, with South Africa's current unpalatable world ranking of 75 and 18th in Africa counting against them because the make-up of the five African World Cup qualifying groups will be decided on a seeding basis.

More encouraging for Bafana in the immediate context is the encouraging statistic that South Africa have only been beaten once by Angola in 12 previous internationals, with six victories and five draws.

In addition, the one loss in the recent less prestigious CHAN qualifier materialised with both nations fielding depleted combinations - and the South African line-ups, at best, of "B" team status.

What remains disconcerting from a South African perspective, however, is a widespread atmosphere of lethargy and general complacency surrounding the Angolan encounters, with little of the fervour, excitement and nationwide interest and involvement that emanated for the recent less important derbies between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.

And with 2016 Olympic Games and 2017 CAF Nations Cup qualifying encounters following in succession over the next few months these are indeed days of destiny for South African soccer.

While SAFA is proclaiming a somewhat starry-eyed "Vision 2022" course to establish South Africa as a force in world soccer, without some immediate tangible progress the whole concept will tend to collapse.

And a minimum requirement, it would seem, is that South Africa qualifies for at least one of the forthcoming World Cup or African Nations Cup tournaments, with a bonus thrown in if the mainly under-23 team makes it to the Olympic Games in Brazil next year as well.

Disconcertingly, however, Bafana Bafana have made a near-disastrous start to this objective with tepid initial performances against unheralded opposition in African Nations Cup qualifiers in the 0-0 home draw against Gambia and the bleak 3-1 away defeat against Mauritania.

Owen de Gama is confident his under-23 squad will finish among the three top teams in the qualifying tournament starting in Senegal later this month and will go on to feature in the Olympic Games in Brazil next year.

But World Cup qualification stands out like a beacon for its paramount importance - and it's 2018 and not 2022 that is the pertinent issue for SAFA and South African soccer as a whole.

Read more on:    bafana bafana  |  swc qualifying  |  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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