The gutsy display by Bafana Bafana in Thursday’s opening qualifier for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Ivory Coast was not enough to earn praise. The nation deserves better.
Simply put, victory against Morocco’s Atlas Lions away in Rabat on Thursday night was within their grasp, or at least a draw, but the loss in concentration towards the end of the game cost South Africa a valuable three points.
Going into the second qualifier against Liberia tomorrow, a win or draw would have eased the pressure somewhat in Group K, which has already been depleted after Fifa banned Zimbabwe’s Warriors from international competitions based on accusations of government interference in football.
Belgian coach Hugo Broos is known to be a firm believer in young talent. Nothing wrong with that. And it is no misdemeanor on his part that he had at least three debutants, defenders Grant Kekana and Taariq Fielies and midfielder Sphephelo Sithole, who had an outstanding game on the night.
But Broos should be told by the men in silky suits down at Safa’s Nasrec headquarters that he needs to fuse more experienced players into his squad before we get more drubbings.
Much as he is of the view the younger they are, the better off they are to take on tough opposition‚ you cannot buy experience.
Not taking anything away from the brilliant showing by Goodman Mosele, Kekana, Khuliso Mudau and Thabang Thipe, as well as scorer Lyle Foster, but the senior national team coach must reconsider his decision to ignore experienced Bafana workhorses.
They have travelled the world of football both with their clubs and the national team before. They know how to deal with the laser beams and the smoke unleashed on them by north African teams’ fans, as was the case after Foster scored the opener.
Once again, the less said about the Premiership’s highly decorated Themba Zwane and Andile Jali’s snubbing, the better. I won’t blow their horn but leaving out the likes of Lebo Mothiba, Bongani Zungu and Kamohelo Mokotjo if they are on form is suicidal, the coach must be told.
Almost all of the Moroccan players ply their trade in the big leagues of Europe and elsewhere; that experience is unmatched.
There is always an intimidating atmosphere when you face the likes of Morocco, Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia in their backyard. You need battle-scarred players with at least two Afcon and World Cup qualifiers behind them, not forgetting Champions League know-how.
Players with some knowledge of how to deal with explosive and volatile situations are needed when the chips are down.
In the 2-1 Afcon loss to Morocco on Thursday, Bafana did not have an inkling of what game plan to apply to regain the lead after the hosts drew level. Instead, they defended all the way until the opposition netted the winner.
They had hoped it would all end in a draw. Alas.
The maturity gained by some of the players Broos believes in is not sufficient. It encompasses only six matches of the ill-fated Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifiers and two friendlies – the goalless draw against Guinea and bruising 5-0 defeat to France.
Watch out Broos, your stubbornness could lead to your downfall.
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