After all, this is a side that has failed serially for years, with only the occasional light flickering amid all the ineptitude.
Stuart Baxter’s Bafana are by no means out of the race for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, particularly after Senegal’s draw with Burkina Faso in Dakar on Saturday. If Bafana win in Durban against Cape Verde this evening, and Burkina Faso and Senegal draw again in Ouagadougou, Bafana will go top of Group D, with two qualifying games to go.
But it is hard to be optimistic after the performance in Praia this weekend. And it is even harder if you reflect on a national team that has not qualified for a World Cup finals since Carlos Queiroz guided Bafana to Japan/South Korea 2002, and has only made it through qualification for an Africa Nations Cup at one of their last four attempts. For the record, we are discounting here the 2010 World Cup and the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, which Bafana played in as hosts.
It had, ahead of Friday’s game, looked all set up for a Bafana win in Cape Verde. Baxter’s second spell as a Bafana coach got off to an excellent start with the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying win against Nigeria in Uyo. He had a squad available to him in Praia packed with talent, with few injury worries. And it looked even better as Tokelo Rantie struck on the break to give Bafana the lead.
But then it all fell apart, some horrible errors at the back allowing Cape Verde to take the lead, and once Bafana were called upon to take the initiative, they couldn’t. Baxter has to take plenty of the blame for this. His team, by his own admission, froze in the headlights, with a chance to gain an initiative in Group D blown horribly. Baxter admitted afterwards that perhaps he shouldn’t have fielded Bongani Zungu and Lebogang Manyama, who only the day before this game had been busy sealing deadline day transfers. But my main concern here is why on earth did the Bafana coach pick them in the first place, if he thought this might be a problem? It is, after all, his job to assess who in his squad is ready for action.
Baxter needs to find an answer to an awful display either way, and fast, if Bafana are to gain revenge over a Cape Verde side that must now be coming to Durban full of confidence, their own chances of a place in Russia at least partially revived.
In this week’s Phakaaathi, we rate the Bafana players for their performances in Praia, and it doesn’t make good reading. We also hear from Zungu, who doesn’t feel he was distracted by his move to Amiens in France.
In our regular One-on-One feature, we speak to Reneilwe Letsholonyane about how he just keeps on excelling in the PSL, and we bring you our verdict on who did well, and who did not, as the transfer window slammed shut.
Please also log onto phakaaathi.co.za and check out our new Soccer Centre, that brings you live, blow-by-blow action from matches across the PSL and the globe, as well as match reports, previews and much, much more.
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