The answer, in truth, is hard to pinpoint. This is a young Bafana side, with only one or two, to be fair, likely to be involved when the more important matter of a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Libya comes around later in the year.
Sundowns’ Motjeka Madisha is the only man in the squad in Polokwane who was there for Bafana’s two World Cup 2018 qualifiers against Senegal last year, and the only man who was in Bafana’s squad for the Four Nations friendly tournament in Zambia in March, if you count the fact that Innocent Maela has now withdrawn from the Cosafa tournament through injury.
Bafana coach Stuart Baxter has constantly preached that results in friendlies should not matter too much, and for all that this is the Cosafa Cup, it is, in the context of international football, little more than a glorified friendly tournament, or at best a development tournament. Baxter has clearly used it as such with the squad he selected, and if it beds in some players for the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar, then the result, I would guess, will quickly be forgotten.
And yet … one would think that even a Bafana side that is this young and inexperienced could beat Madagascar, whatever side this island nation puts out on the field of play. As it was, Bafana fell the victim of some typically awful finishing in Polokwane, with Lebo Maboe and Luther Singh both guilty in normal time and Singh topping that in the penalty shoot-out, taking a spot kick that was so casual it would have been better suited to playing five-a-side with mates on a Madagascan beach.
It might just be Singh’s style when taking a penalty, but the problem with those kinds of spot kicks is that when they fail, you look utterly ridiculous. Bafana did at least restore some pride by beating Namibia in the Cosafa Cup Plate semifinals, an attempt to cram as much crockery as possible into naming a piece of silverware.
Baxter could also do with a victory in the final against Botswana, for all that this is a fairly irrelevant trophy, with pressure on the Bafana coach, after a second spell in charge that started so wel, with an Afcon qualifying win in Nigeria, but that quickly collapsed with the ignominy of home-and-away defeats to Cape Verde in 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifying, far worse, frankly, than any Cosafa Cup loss to anyone.
Away from the results game, my question would be if Bafana playing in the Cosafa Cup is really any sort of decent warm up for the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers towards the end of the year, especially as we are likely to see a totally different squad? When I see the likes of Ghana and Algeria playing World Cup warm up matches against Iceland and Portugal this week, even though neither Ghana or Algeria will be at the World Cup, it does make me wonder why Bafana are not doing the same.
Talking of the World Cup, don’t miss the Saturday Citizen on June 9, for the only 2018 Fifa World Cup fixture pull-out you will need ahead of the global showpiece.
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