Malabo victory gives Bafana Bafana first away win in 2 years

2008-10-12 00:00

AFRICAN National Congress president Jacob Zuma must have known something the rest of South Africa didn’t.

In a characteristically suave publicity manoeuvre, Zuma was present at Bafana Bafana’s 1-0 victory over Equatorial Guinea in Malabo on Saturday, which ended the national team’s unsuccessful qualifying campaign for the 2010 African Nations Cup in Angola.

In doing so, the ANC president was among the few South Africans to view the game, because the SABC encountered, according to their office in Johannesburg, a “technical problem” in broadcasting the match.

Saturday’s victory, which was due to Siphiwe Tshabalala’s 17th-minute strike, was Bafana’s first win away from home in two years and came on a reportedly poor pitch and amid treatment from their hosts that will see the SA Football Association lodge a complaint with Fifa.

Coach Joel Santana praised his players for coming through a difficult trip.

“The players deserve a lot of credit. They showed tremendous character and fighting spirit,” the coach told Sapa.

“They faced an unplayable pitch, which was made worse by the overnight rain. The heat and humidity were also unbearable.”

South Africa will be relieved to have finished on a positive note, although they must be kicking themselves for not having made it to the next round along with Group Four winners Nigeria.

The Super Eagles progressed to the third and final qualifying round as the only team to have won all their second-round games after wrapping up their campaign with a 4-1 thrashing of Sierra Leone in Abuja.

That scoreline alone is indication enough that Bafana should have done better in the qualifiers.

South Africa had a legitimate goal disallowed when they drew at home to Sierra Leone in June — a result that made all the difference in failing to finish as one of eight best runners-up in the 12 groups to reach the next round.

That was just one instance of the poor fortune that appears to have dogged the 2010 World Cup hosts at an inopportune time.

The odds have been stacked against the national team since Carlos Alberto Parreira announced his resignation a month before the qualifiers began. South Africa only produced one markedly poor performance in the qualifiers in their 2-0 opening defeat away to Nigeria in Santana’s first match in charge.

They followed that result with a 4-1 home thrashing of Equatorial Guinea, then an unlucky 1-0 away defeat against Sierra Leone. The 0-0 home draw to Sierra Leone was the result that most ensured Bafana would not qualify.

After that, South Africa could not pull off the improbable home victory they required against Nigeria, even after creating 16 chances to two.

The effect that Parreira’s bombshell departure had on the team cannot be overstated.

South Africa’s players must be wondering what they have done to deserve such a run of bad luck with just under two years to go until the World Cup.

Their last two matches have been victories, and Bafana will hope to continue that progress in their friendly against Ghana in Bloemfontein on Wednesday, and beyond.

Group 4 RESULTS

Saturday: Nigeria 4 Sierra Leone 1, Equatorial Guinea 0 South Africa 1

African qualifying wrap, results and standings in Football Diski tomorrow.

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