Where to for Bafana?

2013-08-18 14:01

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SA’s emphatic victory over Burkinabe soothes Madiba

The Nelson Mandela soccer razzmatazz is over, so where to from here for Bafana Bafana?

The answer is Botswana, whom South Africa face in a fortnight with a final bid for a place in the next round of the 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifiers.

Coach Gordon Igesund opted for a line-up mostly dominated by local-based players against Burkina Faso yesterday.

Although the friendly match against the Stallions was in the spirit of the inaugural Nelson Mandela Sport and Culture

Day with the aim of aiding the building of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, the event was also partly a preparatory exercise for Bafana.

Igesund’s men will face the Zebras of Botswana in a penultimate 2014 World Cup qualifier at home on September 7.

This will also be the same day Bafana will be hoping that group leaders Ethiopia falter against the Central African Republic, whom they will be meeting, provided that South Africa beat Botswana to go through to the next qualifying phase.

But with a blunt strike force and a challenge on decision making in the opposition goal area, Igesund’s team needs some serious shooting drill if they are to convert the many chances they create into goals.

Yesterday was no different even against an opposition that did not feature any of their star-studded squad that helped Burkina Faso to the runners-up spot in the Africa Cup of Nations here early this year.

The looks on former presidents Thabo Mbeki and FW de Klerk from the Presidential Suite painted a picture of sports fans hungry for a goal extravaganza at Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula’s razzmatazz.

Bafana needed a confidence booster yesterday after they slumped to a 2-0 defeat to Nigeria in the Mandela Challenge midweek.

The west African side provided Igesund with the unlikely opportunity to prepare by means of tuning up some of the players in yesterday’s game as a backup, in the event of any eventualities to his regulars.

As it was, the Kaizer Chiefs duo of Siphiwe Tshabalala and Reneilwe Letsholonyane looked a bit ­­leg-weary.

Although they were playing against a second-tier Burkinabe side that never really threatened, newcomers in the Bafana team such as SuperSport United midfielder David Mathebula and Mamelodi Sundowns striker Bongani Zungu made most of the opportunity, so did Hlompho Kekana and Thulani Hlatshwayo, who only just recently received their caps.

Playing behind the back four, Kekana equally provided the bite and an offensive dimension to the midfield while Hlatshwayo delivered another defensive qualities at right back.

Bloemfontein Celtic skipper Thabo Nthethe also deserves praise for holding the central defence together alongside club-mate Buhle Mkhwanazi.

It was the combination of Mathebula and Zungu that set Siphiwe Tshabalala for the opening goal midway through the opening half.

Lerato Chabangu added the second at the stroke of full time.

If there was anything to take out of yesterday’s game, it is that Igesund had at his disposal a team to build on going into the African Nations Championship that South Africa hosts in January next year.

The 16-nation tournament is only tailored for locally-based players on the continent.

But the immediate target is to reach a first World Cup qualification since 2002.

The final draw of the qualifiers will take place in Cairo on September 16, where the 10 nations that progressed will face off in two-legged play-offs with aggregate winners advancing to the World Cup in Brazil next year. The first legs have been pencilled in for early October.

» South African Masters lost 2-0 to their Italian counterparts in the curtain raiser in an earlier match.

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