Gloom, doom for Bafana

2008-06-22 00:00

BAFANA Bafana are on the verge of an all-time low following their 0-0 draw against Sierra Leone in Atteridgeville on Saturday, which has left the team only a slim chance of qualifying for the 2010 African Nations Cup.

Bafana are likely need to win both their home match against Nigeria on September 5 and final qualifier away against Guinea on October 11 to stand a chance of reaching the next round. Nigeria became the first country to go through to the final round of qualifying with a 2-0 victory against Equatorial Guinea on Saturday.

For South Africa, the prospect of not qualifying for Angola 2010, which takes place just four months before the hosting of the 2010 World Cup, now seems all too likely.

This embarrassment will have repercussions internationally. Fifa president Sepp Blatter has repeatedly warned the SA Football Association (Safa) that he expects Bafana to qualify for the Nations Cup.

The current situation makes a mockery of a statement made by Safa chairman Molefi Oliphant at the press conference to announce the resignation of previous coach Carlos Alberto Parreira in April. Jokingly echoing president Thabo Mbeki’s stance on the political situation in Zimbabwe, Oliphant said that “there is no crisis” in South African football.

Much of the blame for Bafana’s form in the qualifiers has gone to new coach Joel Santana. This seems unfair considering Santana has had just a month to work with the team, facing four qualifiers in four weeks.

Santana started with a 2-0 defeat away against Nigeria, showed promise with a 4-1 victory at home to Equatorial Guinea, before Bafana were put under pressure with a 1-0 defeat away against Sierra Leone.

On Saturday inexperienced South Africa cracked under the pressure, and nervously could not put away more than a dozen clear-cut chances they created without reply. When Bafana finally did get the ball in the net off a Sierra Leone defender in the 68th minute, the goal was incorrectly disallowed for offside in an appalling decision for an international match.

It seems clear Bafana are playing catch-up on a programme of building a team for 2010 that should have been started years ago by Safa.

In an interview with the Guardian of London during the Nations Cup finals in January, Parreira said the work he was doing then should have been started four years previously.

Parreira was brought in on a R1,8 million-a-month rescue mission because Safa had not done its job. The coach started with moderate success, but a 3-0 friendly victory over Paraguay suggested Bafana were on track.

Since Parreira’s departure that progress has slowly unravelled. South African football is paying the price for Safa’s failure to put in place development structures, youth and reserve leagues or the academies asked for by coaches even before Parreira, such as Englishman Stuart Baxter.

Sierra Leone played with 10 men behind the ball and barely bothered to attack. “Only one team tried to win this game,” said Santana. “Only one team tried to score.”

Bafana should have wrapped the game up in the first half but Leonean goalkeeper Christian Caulker again had a stormer in goal.

The SA attacks became more desperate as the game went on. After substitute Katlego Mashego forced a save with a rasping drive, Bryce Moon’s square-ball was turned into his own net by a defender.

The assistant referee raised his flag for offside. It was a shocking decision the home team scarcely needed.

Group 4

Saturday: South Africa 0 Sierra Leone 0, Nigeria 2 Equatorial Guinea 0

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