Bafana Bafana

Indomitable Lions stand in Bafana's way

2015-11-25 14:35
Shakes Mashaba (Supplied)

It always seemed likely that only a fairly substantial degree of success in their home-and-away games against Cameroon - a minimum of four points to be precise - could rescue Bafana Bafana from a precarious start to their 2017 African Nations Cup qualifying campaign.

Now these games against the team known as The Indomitable Lions contain what might be termed a "double destiny" for South Africa in that they could also affect Bafana’s prospects of qualifying for the more important 2018 World Cup Finals in Russia.

This is how the issue of the World Cup's involvement in the games against Cameroon, which on the surface appears unconnected, comes to play a role in a curious and indirect fashion.

It all centres round Bafana's international rankings, currently an unpalatable 75th in the world and 17th in Africa, with these rankings ultimately a vitally significant factor in deciding World Cup qualification.

With the relatively modest Angola having recently been disposed of in the second World Cup qualifying round for African teams, the main obstacles are now looming in the third and final qualifying round after which the winners in five groups of four teams will decide which countries are successful in negotiating the singularly important road to Russia.

And FIFA has now announced that the fateful draw to decide the composition of the five groups will not only utilise a seeding system - similar to that when the African teams for the 2014 World Cup were formulated - but will also be designed in a way that the 20 teams will be divided into four potted groups of five based on rankings.

In view of Bafana's perilous present position - currently 17th among the 20 remaining contenders - it could mean South Africa finding themselves in the weakest and most vulnerable potted group and thereby ending up in what is commonly referred to as a "Group of Death" with opposition of the calibre of Ivory Coast, Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Egypt, Nigeria, DR Congo and Tunisia to contend with.

"There is no point in pre-empting what the draw might produce," commented one official on Bafana's looming dilemma, "even if the seeding and potted process leaves South Africa with a mountain to climb."

But an improved ranking over the next seven months, with the main avenue for this to be achieved in the games against Cameroon, could make the world of difference and lift Bafana out of the bottom pot and even into the second strongest group if they can ascend to a ranking among the 10 leading teams in the qualifiers.

Bafana's urgent objective must now be to achieve as many favourable results as possible before the World Cup qualifying draw at CAF's headquarters in Cairo in June, but opportunities will be limited.

And the Cameroon games loom as the best, if undoubtedly most difficult opportunities.

As for Bafana's present plight, this is how the 20 teams taking part in the final round of African World Cup qualifiers are positioned, with their current World Cup and African rankings respectively: Ivory Coast (22nd and 1st); Algeria (26th and 2nd); Ghana (30th and 3rd); Cape Verde (32nd and 4th); Senegal (39th and 5th); Tunisia (41st and 6th); Cameroon (51st and 7th); Congo (52nd and 8th); Guinea (53rd and 9th); DR Congo (55th and 10th); Egypt (57th and 11th); Nigeria ( 59th and 12th); Mali( 63rd and 13th); Uganda (68th and 14th); Zambia (71st and 15th);  Gabon (73rd and 16th); South Africa (75th and 17th); Morocco (79th and 18th);  Burkina Faso (93rd and 19th) and Libya (113th and 20th).

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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