Mark Gleeson

Fans desperate for success

2009-07-14 14:55
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
Mark Gleeson

So desperate are South African fans for success, it doesn't take much to please.

Three defeats in a row at the Confederations Cup and yet the supposed achievements of Bafana Bafana are being lauded. Have we become a nation conditioned after a decade of mediocrity that now celebrate improvement rather than victory?

The Confederations Cup experience might have come as fillip to the players and fans, who now believe there is some potential in the national squad, but it is disturbing to see how little it takes to get everyone excited.

Over five matches, Bafana Bafana won once, against the semi-professionals of New Zealand where the overriding image of the game was a Bafana Bafana side unable to deliver a killer blow. A 2-0 winning margin was deemed sufficient by immature players showboating when they should have been scoring.

Bafana Bafana were supposed to win at least one other game, but failed to find the net against Iraq. They looked scared and browbeaten and the defensive tactics employed against a side clearly their inferior was further proof of Joel Santana's primary objective of self- preservation.

Bafana Bafana only made it to the semi-finals because of the brilliance of Glen Moss, the Kiwis goalkeeper whose myriad of save kept Iraq at bay in their final group game at Coca-Cola Park.

It is a rare treat to get a favour from our traditional sporting rivals from down under but the New Zealanders' 0-0 draw with Iraq meant South Africa snuck into the semi-finals, even though they lost their last group game to Spain.

The semi-final against Brazil was a game of great excitement. Bafana Bafana outboxed the five-time world champions in the middle of the park but had no idea when it came to the final third. Shooting, decision making and option taking were poor. Indeed Brazil, who looked tired on the night, could have sat back all evening and let the South Africa play and still not feel their goal was under much threat.

It was much the same for the play-off match against Spain; plenty of possession, few ideas in front of goal, little direct running at the defence and when the fullbacks went flying wide, the crosses delivered were poor. Again all foreplay, no climax.

Santana showed little flexibility ion his selections and when he brought on changes they were far too late to be of any effective, save for the match against Spain for the bronze medal.

It was only after Elrio van Heerden was finally given a chance and Katlego Mphela brought on that other potential would have realised.

Van Heerden's vision set up a wide ball to Siphiwe Tshabalala, who in turn fed Mphela for the first goal against Spain. A first goal in three games for Bafana Bafana and finally proof that if the coach was prepared to try a few new combinations he might achieve what football is all about - scoring.

The fervour and fever of the Confederations Cup was grand but all the hype around a new-look Bafana Bafana is misguided. The stark statistics speak of another story.

Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


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