Cape Town - It was a Soccer World Cup qualifying draw last week that was
welcomed by Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba, with invariably optimistic SAFA
president Danny Jordaan expressing unequivocal confidence over South Africa
making it to Russia for the 2018 tournament.
And, in truth, the four-team group in which Bafana finds
itself in order to secure one of the five World Cup positions reserved for
African teams could have evolved into something more formidable.
But lurking in the soccer bushes as a distinct threat to
what is the vital objective of qualifying for the World Cup - particularly in
view of Bafana's deflating failure to gain a place in next year's African
Nations Cup tournament - are Senegal's imposing and feared "Lions of
Now ranked fourth-best team in Africa and the side most
World Cup aspirants on the continent were happy to avoid, Senegal's
growing prowess is emphasised by the fact that the "Lions of
Teranga" are able to call on no fewer than 35 international players
who are plying their trade in Europe.
In addition, Senegal are the only team to have won all five
qualifying games for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament in Gabon, while possessing with
Cameroon and Ghana the pedigree of being one of only three African countries to
have reached the quarter-final stage of the World Cup.
This occurred memorably in 2002, highlighted by their
astonishing defeat of holders France in the tournament's opening game.
But while Senegal loom as the most difficult obstacle facing
Bafana in their World Cup qualifying campaign, the other two teams in the
group, Cape Verde Island and Burkina Faso, are no pushovers either.
Cape Verde, in fact, have an appreciably better world
ranking than South Africa and were placed in the second category of four teams
among the 20 African countries vying for a place in Russia - with Bafana in the
third group and Burkina Faso in the fourth segment.
And so, as has often happened in the past with dire
consequences, the question will be raised whether South African soccer's
hierarchy may again be under-estimating an imminent threat - this time posed by
the ever-improving, imposing top-seeded Senegal.