Bafana Bafana have predictably fallen flat on their faces in the bid to qualify for Russia 2018, Stuart Baxter’s attempts to get the side there pretty much over before they had started, with the home and away defeats to Cape Verde in September.
There had been so much hope that Bafana might just make it this time, with four points (initially) picked up from their two opening qualifiers under Shakes Mashaba, and then with the brilliant 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualfying win in Nigeria in March, Baxter’s first game in charge. The South African Football Association, for all their stalling in appointing a new coach after the controversial decision to fire Mashaba, looked like they might just have got it right in appointing Baxter again after that famous victory over the Super Eagles.
But it all went wrong in Praia, and then at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, in two staggeringly inept performances. Almost immediately, four points in World Cup qualifying became one, as Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey was banned for life for match manipulation in Bafana’s “victory” over Senegal in November 2016.
A victory over Burkina Faso in October proved another false dawn, as Senegal finally trampled Bafana’s World Cup hopes into the dust, with a victory in the replayed match in Polokwane in November, and Bafana’s misery was complete with a loss in Dakar a few days later.
Baxter, for all his undoubted coaching ability, proven in spells at Kaizer Chiefs and SuperSport United, will now forever go down as the man who failed to qualify the country for two World Cup finals, after Bafana also failed to make it under his watch to Germany 2006.
In Baxter’s defence this time around, this is a far worse Bafana side than he had at his disposal all those years ago. You could get anyone to coach Bafana right now, to my mind, and they wouldn’t make it to the World Cup. We just don’t have the talent.
I cringed when I read the recent words of Safa president Danny Jordaan, saying South Africa belong in the top three in Africa. Such a sense of entitlement is part of the problem. South African football is not even close to as good as many people seem to think it is. Accepting this would at least be a start to finding a solution.
Hopefully 2018 will, in the meantime, bring better tidings for Bafana who should, at least, be able to qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
To finish off, I would just like to wish all our readers all the best for the festive season, as this is the last Phakaaathi supplement of 2017. We will be back on January 9, 2018, with all your latest news, gossip and features from the wonderful world of South African football.
You may have also noticed that Helman Mkhalele’s column is missing from today’s edition of Phakaaathi. Fear not, the Midnight Express will also be back on January 9.
He asked that we thank all the readers who have supported him and his columns in 2017.