S'Busiso Mseleku

2 areas for Bafana to improve

2015-01-21 10:00
Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)

Bafana Bafana will have to improve dramatically on two aspects of their game if they intend to stay longer at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.

This emerged from their opening match against Algeria, an encounter they could easily had won if the Achilles heel of South African football did not cripple them.

The two key points that coach Shakes Mashaba will have to work on before Friday's tussle against Senegal, is the team's tendency to start their games too slow as well as poor finishing.

Bafana Bafana have recently developed a tendency of taking too long to warm up and thus allow the opposition to pin them to their own half and thus put themselves under sever - sometimes unnecessary pressure.

In the match against Algeria, Bafana were playing in their half for long spells of the first half. They were just lucky that the Desert Foxes - who are ranked the top side on the continent - did not score as they also seemed to have left their scoring boots at Algiers.

Then once the South African lads had put their game together and started playing their typical free-flowing short-passing game, that eternal problem of Mzansi football set in.

They dismally failed to convert the chances that came their way.

Save the shot from  skipper Dean Furman that the goalkeeper tipped with his finger-tips to thud against the woodwork, Bafana fluffed at least three clear chances that would have seen them go into the break at least a trio of goals to the good.

After going a goal up - thanks to Thuso Phala who finished a well orchestrated move - the national team failed to capitalise on a glorious chance to finish off their opponents when  they were awarded a penalty.

Up stepped Tokelo Rantie, who had already squandered a number of chances by that time and I was surprised how he was give the task of taking that spot kick. He blasted the ball against the crossbar thus blowing a chance to put the  team  2-0 to the good.

What followed was a disaster of calamitous proportions as first, defender Thulani Hlatshwayo turned the ball into his own net, then Darren Keet managed to do what goalkeepers are warned against from kindergarten that you must never get beaten on your near-post before he let a shot slip under his diving body.


One feels that had Bafana Bafana used their chances, the score would have reflected something much different to this.

Their failure to kill the opposition while they still had the opportunities, was a huge downfall in this match.

It is high time that Bafana players learnt that scoring chances are few and far apart in tournaments such as the Afcon, Failure to convert them, is usually disastrous. This is because teams are well organised at this level of competition.

Failure to convert their chances in their second match against Senegal on Friday, might see them in an early flight on Wednesday (January 28) after their final group match against Ghana next Tuesday, instead of January 10 that was predicted by Mashaba.

But as some people have pointed out, Spain lost their opening 2010 Soccer World Cup match but went on to win the tournament played here at our shores. Bafana Bafana still have a chance to do better in the tournament.

All they have to do now to proceed to the next round, is win their two last Group games.

They have missed an early opportunity to pick up their first three points, but all is not lost.

Here  is hoping that the mistakes will be rectified and we will see Bafana Bafana in the next round.

To paraphrase one old wise man, great men are not those who never stumble but those with an ability to pick themselves up after falling.

Bafana Bafana's performance at the 2015 AFCON will not be judged by their performance and result of the first game, but their ability to get up from the hiccup.

So here is hoping that they don't let this result dampen their spirits and let them be despondent in their next game, but pick themselves up and put up a brave and glittering performance.

S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.

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