2010 World Cup
Glimmer of hope for Bafana
The way the French have been imploding over the last few days suggests there might still be some hope for Bafana Bafana. Or does it?
The swearing at the coach, the resultant expulsion of striker Nicolas Anelka and a strike on Sunday has been an incredible saga at the World Cup, adding a spicy dimension to a tournament now also beginning to fire up on the pitch.
France look a team at the end of their tether, the relationship with their coach Raymond Domenech fractured; friction between the players and the sense that many fine footballers are bringing an ignoble end to their international careers.
The squabbling has been … well … French. The Gallic penchant for drama is always delivered with much flair but the sequence of incidents since the loss to Mexico in Polokwane is Oscar-winning, even by their standards.
They will certainly be a changed outfit when the come up against South Africa at the Free State Stadium on Tuesday.
For Bafana Bafana to progress they need to handsomely beat the French and hope there is no draw at the same time when Mexico take on Uruguay.
That’s the first dilemma.
It must be remembered that the winner of Group A will in all likelihood avoid Argentina in the next round.
Carlos Alberto Parreira spoke at a pre-match press conference in Bloemfontein on Monday and said he thought there would be no collusion. I beg to differ. I think they will play for about an hour and then happily retreat to the safety of a stalemate. That will give both five points and put them out of reach.
Both Uruguay and Mexico will be exceeding expectation in reaching the second round. It is likely the ambition they set themselves and therefore, in a sense, they have had a successful tournament. Why risk it when a point for both will suffice?
The second problem for Bafana is a backlash from the French. Hopefully they have no stomach to fight but I think they will come out with a point to prove. They need to fix the image of French football, and, even more importantly for ego-driven footballers, their own.
There is strong motivation to believe France will not lie down and capitulate in the Free State Stadium.
A third factor to consider is that France also have a chance to qualify. A very good chance if the Mexicans and Uruguayans don’t concoct a draw. To see France beating Bafana by two or three goals is far more realistic than a fairytale win for the locals.
Lastly, is there enough in the South African attacking armoury to fire the requisite number of goals past the French, even if they are in a otherwise frame of mind? Past evidence suggests not. Parreira is promising five changes but is that just reaching into the wind and hoping to pluck out some luck.
It would be a marvelous day for South Africa should a miracle happen but let’s be careful not to set ourselves up with too much expectations. There has already been too heady a fall.
Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.
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