NATIONAL coach Shakes Mashaba launched a staunch defence of the Bafana Bafana attack following their disappointing goalless draw against Gambia in their opening qualifier for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations played in Durban on Saturday.
The hosts squandered a barrage of chances against opponents ranked almost 100 places below them on the world rankings at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, beginning their road to Gabon in disappointing fashion.
The South Africa coach insisted afterwards that he was working with what was at his disposal, saying the strikers he had were the best available ones at present.
“We always try and address problems at the wrong level … the national team level,” Mashaba said afterwards. “We’ve developed habits here now, good, bad, ugly straight and we can’t change them at this level.
“Never! You can’t … they have to grow up with it.”
Mashaba explained that his predicament was the same one experienced by Premiership coaches, who all complain of the same things when it boils down to scoring goals.
He continued: “There are 16 teams in the PSL. We got 16 coaches plus their co-workers.
“All of them, they talk about scoring goals, the problem. And where do we get those players that are playing in the national team? From the very same clubs. Now we expect when the national team gets together for four days, and it’s not even four days, how do you solve the problem of scoring goals?
“We bring players in, we guide them and that is all. We’re not making players here.”
His comments followed another disappointing showing from Bafana Bafana, who dominated the game without making an impact on the scoreboard.
Thamsanqa Gabuza, May Mahlangu, Thabo Matlaba, Siphelele Ntshangase and Ayanda Patosi all missed fine chances through the game, particularly in the second half as South Africa fired blanks.
“I think we gave of our best, but fell short in attack,” Mashaba said.
“We could have done better in terms of using width in the first half, that’s where we may have fallen short there. But in the second half when we did go wide, they cracked. It was most unfortunate that we couldn’t put the ball into the back of the net.”
The coach also felt that fixing the country’s attacking woes should be a big priority for those responsible for development in South Africa.
“I think we created more chances than any team that has created chances in this world,” he said. “… It’s something we need to work on.
“We need to get high skilled and qualified manpower to work at the grass root level. And those people must be well-looked after because it’s not an easy thing.”
Bafana Bafana’s chances of qualifying for the continental showpiece in two years time are now already in doubt, despite the match only being the first of a qualifying campaign that will also see them face African powerhouse Cameroon and Mauritania in Group M.
But Mashaba reminded pessimists of their last qualifying campaign when they struggled to win at home, but still managed to get through in a group that included Nigeria, Congo and Sudan.
He added: “Playing at home is not always a plus. It’s a minus because there’s so much of pressure on the players.
“If you look at all our qualifiers for the last Afcon, we won most of our away games. We drew one or two at home. I think we need to change that idea that when we play at home things will go our way. The boys played very well, we were just unfortunate.”
South Africa play Angola in a friendly in Cape Town tomorrow