I have to admit, true to my form as a world-weary cynic, that when Bafana Bafana conceded a goal after just 90 seconds on Friday in Benguela, I saw only doom and gloom for Shakes Mashaba’s men.
In my defence, it is easy to be cynical about a national football team that falls flat on its face more often than a drunk at an ice-rink. And yet this time there was only joy for Bafana at the final whistle, their place in the World Cup qualifying group stages surely secure.
Bafana were brilliant in Benguela, showing the heart for the battle that had been so sorely missing just a few months ago against Mauritania in Nouakchott.
There, Bafana never really recovered from Itumeleng Khune’s impersonation of a sieve – yes, they found an equaliser, but their performance was dire and their defeat inevitable.
Here, Bafana recovered from their awful start to totally outplay Palancas Negras on their own turf, a performance all the more remarkable for the fact that Angola had not lost a World Cup qualifier on home soil for 22 years. It was a display that belied the pressure on Mashaba and his side, particularly after their poor start to the 2017 African Cup of Nations qualifiers.
It was reasonable to think that Mashaba could lose his job if Bafana failed to get past Angola, and as such one could have forgiven him for playing a defensive game in Benguela and taking a point back to Durban. Instead, even with their hand slightly forced by that early Angolan goal, Bafana played with verve, even having a go at Angola after they had taken a 2-1 lead.
It is, of course, still possible that Angola could win 3-0 in Durban this evening, and that this editorial will be rendered a laughably poor piece of insight. But it won’t happen – it can’t happen.
Even if you argue that Bafana haven’t played very well at home under Mashaba since he took over, they still haven’t lost a competitive home game, and there is no chance of them losing here by a margin significant enough to knock them out of the World Cup.
Having put your minds and hearts at ease, let me take you through what we have for you in this week’s edition of Phakaaathi. The World Cup, of course, is the flavour of this evening, and we look ahead to the game against Angola, as well as take you through what happened in the rest of the African qualifiers over the weekend.
We also rate the performances of the Bafana players in the first leg, with a Tokelo Rantie coming out with top marks.
As well as Bafana Bafana, there are important games coming up for the national Under-23 side as they prepare to fly off to Senegal to attempt to qualify for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympcs.
We speak to two members of Owen da Gama’s squad, Riyaad Norodien and Tebogo Moerane. Norodien also gives his view on one of the main talking points of the past week or so, namely Ajax Cape Town’s players’ failure to attend the funeral of Cecil Lolo in the Eastern Cape.
The British Broadcasting Corporation were in town this weekend to launch their prestigious African Footballer-of-the-Year award. Once again, there is no South African on the shortlist, which is a damning indictment of our lack of talent making at the highest levels in Europe. Former Bundesliga leftback Bradley Carnell gives his view on exactly why this is.
Thamsanqa Gabuza will probably play for Bafana tonight, starting a massive week for him and the other Orlando Pirates players in the Bafana squad.
And we look ahead to the Buccaneers’ clash with Etoile de Sahel in the first leg of the Caf Confederation Cup final on Saturday, where Gabuza’s goals in Orlando could be key to a Pirates victory.