S'Busiso Mseleku

2013-06-15 00:00

A NUMBER of things can be read into Bafana Bafana’s 3-0 victory over Central African Republic (CAR) in the 2014 Soccer World Cup qualifier played in Yaoundé, Cameroon last Saturday.

It was quite an impressive victory given that the match was played away from home and CAR are no slouches.

One of the things one can read is that coach Gordon Igesund has instilled quite a deep and strong sense of self-belief in the players. It has been quite some time since the team have played with such panache, more especially away from home.

On more occasions, they have looked very jittery and lacking in self-confidence, sometimes even when they were playing at home.

In this instance, there were many reasons why the team should have looked disjointed, given the well-documented injuries to key players and the atrocious trip to the match venue that saw the team stuck in Douala for almost 24 hours and eventually travelling more than five hours by road.

The players must have been quite shaken by the experience, but on match day, they looked fresher than their opponents who had been in Cameroon since the Sunday before the match, almost a week.

The kind of fighting spirit the team showed was what we have been calling for for quite some time now.

Had the team showed this kind of grit from the onset, they would not have dropped crucial points against Botswana and Group A leaders Ethiopia, against whom they drew at home.

But one needs to caution that in the euphoria that ensued after this victory, there is still a long way to go before the team can qualify for the World Cup. There is still the match against Ethiopia and then Botswana, who are coming here in September. If Bafana win these two matches and finish at the top of the group, they will then be one of 10 countries that will still have to fight for the final five slots allocated to Africa at the 32-team World Cup.

In this context, the victory against CAR needs to be taken just as the Chinese saying about a journey of a thousand miles starting with one step. This is just one step in the right direction.

Another impressive thing was that despite playing with a makeshift defence, the team did not concede a goal. They also scored three goals, a rarity indeed.

What this means in a nutshell, is that despite the lack of development we pointed to in the previous column, Igesund has managed to build a pool of players from which he can draw as and when the need arises.

What it also means, is that we are getting past the unhealthy stage where a few players felt that they owned their positions in the team and their absence meant the team could not function.

This victory, achieved in the absence of no fewer than five regulars, will create a highly competitive spirit where players know that they have to fight for positions. And this is a good space for any coach to be.

Let’s hope Bafana take yet another step towards qualification when they meet Ethiopia tomorrow and the nation can once more cautiously celebrate knowing the journey is not over yet, but we are getting closer.

— Sport24.

• S’busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa’s leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He is currently the City Press sports editor.

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