Second chance for Bafana

2013-07-02 00:00

BAFANA Bafana’s hopes of qualifying for the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil have been rejuvenated after Ethiopia were yesterday docked three points for fielding an ineligible player in their June 8 qualifier against Group A rivals Botswana.

Ethiopia won the match 2-1, but due to Minyahil Teshome Beyene’s participation in the match when he should have been suspended after reaching a yellow card limit, Fifa confirmed yesterday that the match will now go down in the record books as a 3-0 win to Botswana. Ethiopia, who have never played in a World Cup, received a fine in the region of R60 000 for their misconduct.

Bafana were mathematically un­able to finish top of the group after losing 2-1 in Ethiopia last month, but this latest development has given Gordon Igesund and his side a lifeline.

Only the 10 teams that finish top of their groups can qualify for the World Cup, where five play-off matches — home and away — among the group winners will determine the five African sides who will travel across the Atlantic for next year’s South American showpiece.

Bafana remain in second place in the group but are now just two points behind log-leaders Ethiopia with one round of fixtures remaining. But even though this is good news for Bafana, Ethiopia are still expected to be too strong for a weak Central African Republic (CAR) side that is bottom of the group and currently unable to host matches due to ongoing low-level civil war. To Bafana’s detriment, the September 7 clash between the sides is likely to be played at a neutral venue.

But Bafana cannot afford to think about any of that. They must defeat Botswana (also on September 7) to stand any chance of progressing, and by two goals to guarantee that they progress should Ethiopia and CAR play to a draw.

The decision was welcomed by Igesund and Safa, with the coach reiterating the importance of the Botswana match.

“It [Fifa’s decision] gives us a second bite at the cherry; we now have to beat Botswana and hope Ethiopia loses or draws against CAR,” he said yesterday. “It was never in doubt because rules are rules, so in our view it is a correct decision.”

Safa CEO Dennis Mumble was also grateful to Fifa, and explained that the South African football governing body had written to Fifa to query Beyene’s participation in the match against South Africa after not serving his suspension.

“We were not looking for three points but were just inquiring about the status of the player in the qualifiers,” said Mumble.

“We would also like to reiterate our coach’s views that there is now much more to play for in the qualifiers as we believe we stand a good chance of proceeding to the next round of play-offs, even though it’s no longer in our hands. We will go there and do the best we can, and hope for a favourable result in the other match.”


South Africa v Botswana

Central African Republic v Ethiopia

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