Baby Bafana 'must be smarter'

2011-12-04 16:55

Marrakech - A lack of physical fitness and match intelligence let the South African Under-23 team down in their CAF Under-23 campaign in Morocco, coach Shakes Mashaba said on Sunday.

However, he believed Babay Bafana had gained valuable experience.

"We got to see what it takes to play here (at this level)," he said.

"In all there were two issues, the physical fitness and also match intelligence.

"Like Gabon, maybe we needed to play with more purpose and with Egypt you got a feeling of comfort with one another."

Baby Bafana, with a second-string squad available for Mashaba, are on their way home with their 2012 Olympic participation dreams over having failed in the final round hurdle.

They lost 2-0 to Egypt here in Morocco on Saturday in their last Group B CAF Under-23 Championship tie, having played to consecutive 1-1 draws with Ivory Coast and Gabon in earlier matches.

The South Africans, with two points, needed to beat Egyptians to book a place in this week's competition semi-finals. Instead, they finished last in their group.

A win from either of the drawn games - with the often-frail defence holding out - would have secured the squad a spot in the critical knockout stages.

"It was tough. Even though I thought we did well, but our problem was finishing (off opportunities at goal).

"We needed to be prepared to take risks and not chicken out because if you miss you will be in trouble."

It has been argued that the team would have done better had they had their core squad with the likes of Thulani Serero, Andile Jali, Kamohelo Mokotlo, Darren Keet and Bongani Ndulula.

This is despite the effort made by the coaching staff in the week to turn a hastily assembled group of players, who lacked match fitness, into to a strong unit.

The likes of Egypt and Ivory Coast, and most of the sides partaking in the eight-nations tournament, were afforded an opportunity to play with their best squads.

Egypt, in particular, suspended their domestic league so the mostly-local based team could have the best preparations and players available for coach Hani Ramzy.

Overall, South Africa showed some good touches in their opening encounters against the Ivorians and the tournament's surprise package, Gabon, last week.

Their situation could have been different as they held the lead in both matches before defensive errors saw them concede late equalisers. They were outclassed by the sheer fluidity of the organised Egyptians in their final encounter, and did not play like a team that deserved a spot in last four stages.

"To see all the effort that we put in the previous rounds go up in smoke at this stage ... it would have been okay had we lost in the other rounds," complained Mashaba.

"I agree that we would have been better off with five or six more players, I believe we would have walked this group.

"The biggest thing at home (South Africa) is that we downplay the process of preparation. There is more to it then getting a team together."

In the semi-finals, Senegal take on Gabon in Tangiers on Tuesday, with Egypt playing hosts Morocco in Marrakech on Wednesday.

The top three will automatically qualify for next year's London Games, with the losing semi-finalists in a play-off match against an Asian nation.