Congratulations to Gordon Igesund and his boys for winning their 2014 Brazil World Cup qualifier against the Central African Republic (CAR) team. As it stands, Bafana Bafana are now sitting on 2nd position in their group, two points behind Ethiopia who have also won their home match against Botswana.
The battle for top spot in Group A looks set to be between the current top two teams but the Central African Republic are still in with an outside chance of winning it in the end. Their fate and fortune will depend on other results in the group. No disrespect to Botswana but I don’t think they have enough quality and the right mindset to pull any surprises in their quest for qualification. Ethiopia are strong favourites at the moment. Gordon must accept the reality that he has his work cut out. Chances of qualification for next year’s World Cup are bleak at this stage, all thanks to the mess that was created by Pisto Mosimane.
While Mosimane is busy suing SAFA ten million rands for “unfair dismissal” Gordon could be having sleepless nights trying to figure out the best strategy to approach the last three games of his group. South Africa will end their group qualification with a home match against Botswana and that should be an easy one to win. However, the next two trips for Gordon’s men will be away clashes to CAR and Ethiopia in June. This is where Mosimane's tenure as the former national team head coach comes back to haunt us. It is, in particular, the 1-1 home draw Bafana Bafana played with Ethiopia last year in Rustenburg that makes me less confident about our national team’s chances of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. For South Africa that draw in Rustenburg was a case of two points dropped while it was a case of one point earned for Ethiopia. That result may prove costly in the end but not all is lost.
After watching the 2-0 win against CAR on Saturday, I noticed a few points that we need to consider as a nation. The team is creating enough chances to win games but we are still poor in front of goal. Our genetic problem of lacking a natural goal scorer will continue to hamper our progress especially against tougher opposition. Special goals like the one from Thabo Matlaba do not come every day. We need to replace the likes of Benni McCarthy and Siyabonga Nomvethe as soon as possible; and for that reason I recommend that the coach starts giving more responsibility to Dino Ndlovu. This guy’s technique and football brain is up there with the best in the world. It’s a pity Mosimane was so caught up in Katlego Mphela and had no time to foresee the amazing potential which Dino has. Credit must go to Gordon for being wise enough to identify his talent. What is left of him now is to be brave enough to start with Dino in future. We urgently need to erase the myth created by Mosimane of having Killer as the only capable striker for the national team.
Another point that I picked up from the CAR win is the trend by defenders and two-footed players who are scoring for Bafana Bafana since Gordon took over. Siyabonga Sangweni started this trend during the 2013 Afcon. On Saturday it was Matlaba and Bernard Parker who came to the rescue. Morgan Gould is back in the team and we all know how lethal he is in front of goal with his head. Therefore the occurrence of being rescued by defenders when it comes to goals is most likely to continue. My advice to Gordon, going forward, would be to continue giving his defenders more freedom if he hasn’t started doing so already. As for his long-term plans, I would advise him to start searching for more players who have similar qualities as those possessed by Thabo Matlaba and Bernard Parker. I am talking about players who can equally play and shoot from range with both feet.
Players of this calibre are very scarce in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) but there are those who are confident enough to use both their feet in tight situations every now and then. It’s just that the football fraternity in this country hasn’t been putting the necessary emphasis on them. The trick for Gordon is to identify such players and create a system which will keep them motivated. Players of this nature do not have to be playing for the big teams. They could even come from the NFD, as long as they demonstrate this rare and potent skill in our local football. Every soccer player in this country needs to be assured of a place in the national team set-up if he is able to consistently display an effective use of both feet. I strongly believe that Bafana Bafana would be a force to be reckoned with in international football if Gordon were to encourage and implement this strategy.
So starting from now up until Bafana Bafana play their next match, let’s hope there will be more players who would have been displaying such qualities. I urge all football lovers to take note of this point and see how useful it could be in bringing back the pride of our beloved national team.
By Halitto Halington