Johannesburg - Bafana Bafana are on track for their long term plan of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, coach Shakes Mashaba said in Mongomo, Equatorial Guinea, on Friday.
The South Africans were on their way home after finishing last in their group at the Africa Cup of Nations tournament. Taking the lead in all three matches, they ended up losing 3-1 to Algeria, 2-1 to Ghana and securing a 1-1 draw against Senegal.
"The experience gained in this tournament will assist all of us. I strongly believe we are still on track regarding our mission and mandate to build a formidable team for 2018," Mashaba said.
"We started on a high note by winning games in the building phase and some of the players might not yet be at the level we want them; but I am confident they will grow and take us to another level."
He said South Africans needed to be reminded of Bafana's achievements in a short space of time.
"We also need to look at SAFA's Vision 2022. When we started, the first phase was to build a team, which I think we have managed to do.
"The second phase was to qualify for AFCON, which we also managed to do - by defeating Sudan, Congo and denying African champions Nigeria a chance to participate in the tournament."
The ease with which South Africa qualified raised the hopes of the nation and Mashaba said expectations were high when the team set off for AFCON.
"I understand why South Africans are disappointed. We are also very disappointed but we are not discouraged because we played the top countries on the continent with a wealth of experience.
"We still competed and I believe if we had used all our scoring chances, we would still be in the tournament."
He said Bafana Bafana had made their presence felt at the tournament.
"If you listen to the CAF officials and everybody around here, they are raving about the team - a very good and young team. If you look at the average age of this team, we have a long life span.
"The players have established themselves and I will not be surprised if one or two gets an overseas offer. If you look at the stats, we were the fastest and quickest attacking team, but of course there are some areas that we need to work on when we get back home."
He admitted there were one or two players who under-performed in Equatorial Guinea but had no regrets about his chosen squad.
"I believe the squad we assembled is one of the best and they gave a good account of themselves," Mashaba said.
"We would have loved to see the team progressing to the next round as it would have given us a better platform to test our character as a team.
"With time we will get better and make all South Africans proud."