It won’t be an easy ride for Bafana at the 2017 Afcon

2015-04-11 00:00

FORTITUDE will be the operative word for Bafana Bafana on their next continental adventure, something critics say they lack when the going gets tough.

I’ve never subscribed to the theory that South African players are too soft, having travelled extensively with them myself in the past and seen at first hand the adversity they are often put under.

It is no picnic out there and strangely, given the increasing comforts of our modern age, it does not seem to be getting easier. But that is not to proffer any excuses.

The draw for the 2017 African Nations Cup qualifiers will take the team to both new vistas and tough climes and will be among the toughest assignments most of the current squad have faced. SA were drawn against Cameroon, Gambia and Mauritania and while the latter two countries have little footballing pedigree to boast of, Bafana have previously slipped in supposedly easy away games against the likes of Niger, Sierra Leone and Mauritius.

Gambia and Mauritania both sit in the lower reaches of the Fifa rankings and have never before qualified for Afcon. They won’t be expected to do so this time either but could yet have a decisive impact on South Africa’s hopes.

Dispatching of inferior opposition and collecting points where heavyweight teams are supposed to, is often where Bafana Bafana fall short, particularly when compared with the ruthlessness that teams like Cameroon, Nigeria and Algeria show to minnows.

Cameroon are favourites in both their Group M games against Gambia and Mauritania.

It means that to have any chance to finish top of the group and qualify comfortably for the 2017 finals in Gabon, SA must achieve the same and then seek to edge the Cameroonians in their two head-to-head matches next March.

Both Cameroon and South Africa were among the form teams in the 2015 qualifiers yet flopped at the tournament in Equatorial Guinea, going home without a win after their three group games.

It is going to be a tough fight for both countries but the outcome of the group standings will likely be determined by the matches against the other two teams in the group.

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