Mark Gleeson

Shakes' tenure: One year in

2015-06-15 11:45
Mark Gleeson (Gallo Images)

It is just under a year ago since Shakes Mashaba was tasked with building a new team for South Africa in the wake of more than a decade of mediocrity in the international arena.

It was a task he took too literally, soiling the honour of playing for the national team with the inclusion of a couple of academy kids in the squad, but there was nothing to trip him up on while he enjoyed an extended honeymoon through the first six months of his tenure.

Knocking defending champions Nigeria out of the African Nations Cup was one of the bigger and better achievements from any South African side in a long time but Mashaba made the fatal error of losing humility in the wake of this success and fell flat on his face in Equatorial Guinea after making some vain boasts about his side’s potential.

Instead of going on to win the tournament as he trumpeted they went home early without a win.

Mashaba obviously did much right and much wrong and at the end of that cycle will hopefully have learnt lessons.

Saturday marks the start of yet another two-year cycle as qualification for the next Nations Cup finals in 2017 begin.

Again, Bafana have been paired with a formidable opponent, this time Cameroon in a group in which only the winner is guaranteed progress to the tournament in Gabon.

But there is a much softer start on Saturday against the Gambia, a country with a population smaller than Durban, where the match is being played, and who are placed 91 positions below South Africa in the rankings.

These days the draws favour the seeded sides who get a comfortable opening match and Mashaba will be keen for his players to make the requisite impact.

Bafana are away at Mauritania, even lower in the rankings, in their next Nations Cup qualifier in September but the crunch will only come in March next year with two back-to-back games against Cameroon, which will certainly determine the destiny of the campaign.

In tandem with the Nations Cup qualifiers will be the World Cup preliminaries.

Next month marks the draw in St Petersburg and in October the first matches on the road to Russia.

That is the ultimate aim for South Africa and it is now essential the side display an obviously upward trajectory.

January’s folly in Equatorial Guinea must be turned into an ever improving efficiency.

A solid win over Gambia on Saturday will serve as the requisite foundation.

Mark Gleeson is a world-renowned soccer 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.

Read more on:    bafana bafana  |  afcon 2017  |  mark gleeson  |  soccer
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