Cape Town – The price for South Africa of their damaging away
World Cup qualifying defeat to the minnow Cape Verde Islands is the sudden
shaping of their group into a truly “up for grabs” characteristic.
In short, it is a very tight quartet - also featuring Group
D leaders Burkina Faso, and Senegal – at the midway point of hostilities, with
all of them now in the running for the coveted lone spot at the top that will
guarantee onward passage to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Thanks to their shock 2-1 triumph over Bafana Bafana, even
the 114th FIFA-ranked islanders have entered the radar as (still
unlikely, admittedly) winners of the group.
The three points they picked up – their first from three
outings – leaves them only two short of Burkina Faso, who have five, with Senegal
and South Africa in second and third respectively on four points each but
separated by goal difference.
That could quickly change, of course, if Bafana pull
themselves together at short notice by avenging the fiasco at Moses Mabhida
Stadium on Tuesday (19:00) against the same foes they were outwitted by in
Praia, the little Atlantic Ocean capital of the islands with a population well
inside 150 000.
At very least, SA victory may well douse the cheeky fire of
Cape Verde as they would then slip to only three points from a possible 12 and
almost certain also-ran status, leaving the other three battling for
But if they were, say, to grab a point in Durban, they would
stay at the races – not to mention particularly mortally puncture Bafana’s bid
for a first World Cup-proper presence since 2010 when they were automatic
qualifiers as hosts.
A win for South Africa, whether ugly or more compelling,
seems absolutely vital if they are to retain realistic interest.
Already the unproductive events in Praia have all but put
paid to SAFA president Danny Jordaan’s stated wish for Bafana to get the
qualification job done before their stiff closing fixture away to Senegal,
highest-ranked African side (31st in the world) in Group D.
That scenario now seems very unlikely; smart money suggests
Bafana will probably require at least a point - and perhaps even more - in
Dakar now if Russia is still within their reach by then.
One shaft of light is that Bafana have two of their three
remaining games on home turf.
As things stand, Group D is the closest thing, amidst the
five African pools, to a group of death.
It has the lowest disparity in points terms between top side
and bottom, with only two points separating lofty Burkina Faso from
wooden-spoonists Cape Verde.
In Group A, Tunisia have a full house of nine (compared to basement
Libya’s none), in Group B Nigeria are on nine and Algeria on one, in Group C
Ivory Coast have seven and Mali one, whilst in Group E leaders Uganda sport
seven and distant Congo also one.
Here are the
remaining Group D fixtures:
Tuesday: South Africa v Cape Verde Islands (Durban),
Burkina Faso v Senegal (Ouagadougou)
October 7: South
Africa v Burkina Faso (Johannesburg), Cape Verde Islands v Senegal (Praia)
Burkina Faso v Cape Verde Islands (Ouagadougou), Senegal v South Africa (Dakar)
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