Mark Gleeson

'Soft' Bafana face AFCON test

2015-04-09 13:07
Mark Gleeson (Gallo Images)
Fortitude will be the operative word for Bafana Bafana on their next continental adventure, something critics say they lack when the going gets tough.

I’ve never subscribed to the theory that South Africa players are too soft, having travelled extensively with them myself in the past and seen at first hand the adversity they are oft put under.

It is no picnic out there and strangely, given the increasing comforts of our modern age, does seem to be getting easier. But that is not to proffer any excuses.

The draw for the 2017 African Nations Cup qualifiers will take the team to both new vistas and tough climes and will be among the toughest assignments most of the current squad have faced.

South Africa were drawn against Cameroon, Gambia and Mauritania and while the latter two countries have little footballing pedigree to boost of, Bafana have previously slipped in supposedly easy away games against the likes of Niger, Sierra Leone and Mauritius.

Gambia and Mauritania both sit in the lower reaches of the FIFA rankings and have never before qualified for the Nations Cup. They won’t be expected to do so this time either but could yet have a decisive impact on South Africa’s hopes.

Dispatching of inferior opposition and collecting points where heavyweight teams are supposed to, is often where Bafana Bafana falls short, particularly when compared with the ruthlessness that teams like Cameroon, Nigeria and Algeria show to minnows.

You can bet Cameroon will go to their Group M games away against Gambia and Mauritania and win, as well as thrash them at home.

It means that to have any chance to finish top of the group and qualify comfortably for the 2017 finals in Gabon, South Africa must achieve the same and then seek to edge the Cameroonians in their two head-to-head matches next March.

Both Cameroon and South Africa were among the form teams in the 2015 qualifiers yet flopped at the tournament in Equatorial Guinea, going home without a win after their three group games.

Both have sought in recent months to freshen up their squads with young players, Cameroon taking a punt on an 18-year-old goalkeeper without a senior game to his name for example and Bafana coach Ephraim Mashaba plucking a few choices from obscurity too.

It is going to be a tough fight for both proud footballing countries but the outcome of the group standings will likely be determined by the matches against the other two teams in the group.

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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