Johannesburg - A rampant Bafana Bafana yesterday restored their hopes of going to Russia, but there is still a long way to go.
Although it’s not over yet, this victory will go a long way in restoring confidence in the team.
The South Africans held on to their slim hopes of qualifying for next year’s World Cup with an inspired performance to beat Burkina Faso 3-1.
Just when most people had written them off, Bafana came to life and showed what they are capable of. It is not too late to bounce back and get their qualification on track again.
You discount them at your own peril as they seem to do well under pressure, when the chips are down and when nobody gives them a chance.
They made sure they were still in the running yesterday, despite finishing the game with 10 men after Bongani Zungu was sent off in the second half.
They showed determination and character from the onset, and it did not come as a surprise that they lived up to their pre-match promises and emerged victorious.
Following their shock back-to-back defeats to Cape Verde, Bafana needed to respond and they did it in style in front of their home supporters.
Despite the victory, Bafana are still bottom of Group D and will need to beat Senegal at home and away in their remaining two games. Victories in those games could book Bafana a place in the tournament next year.
Knowing that only a win would keep their hopes alive, Bafana could not have asked for a better performance than the one they got when they scored in the opening minute. Percy Tau, who was later voted man of match, flicked Sifiso Hlanti’s throw in. The assistant, after initially having doubts, flagged that the ball had crossed the goal line.
The heavy downpour just before kickoff meant Bafana caught the visitors while they were still cold. They unsettled the Stallions and forced them to change their game plan.
This worked to Bafana’s advantage, as they were able to settle quickly and dictate the terms, despite almost allowing the west Africans to come back into the game. After opening the scoring, Bafana took their feet off the pedal and invited the visitors to come at them as they defended deeply in their own half.
However, they were to punish the Stallions again in the 33rd minute, when Andile Jali’s pass found Themba Zwane in a good position to increase Bafana’s lead.
Another good combination play saw Sibusiso Vilakazi register his name on the score sheet on the stroke of half-time – the visitors simply couldn’t deal with Bafana’s pace going forward.
But credit should go to goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, who showed why he is the country’s number one. What a difference Khune has made to the Bafana team after missing the previous two matches.
He was instrumental in the team’s victory as he not only kept the score respectable after conceding just a single goal, but also contributed two assists to Bafana’s goals.
His vision and quick thinking is what Bafana missed in their games against Cape Verde. Firstly, his pinpoint pass found Jali in a good position to lay
the ball to the rushing Zwane to score Bafana’s second goal.
Secondly, his long goal kick located Tau alone in the other half. All the young lion had to do was give the ball to Vilakazi to increase the goal tally.
Although he was later beaten by Alain Traoré’s free kick in the dying minutes, he had already done the hard work of saving the team.
If Bafana produce the same kind of performance against Senegal next month, they could actually be on their way to Russia.