Time to step up for Bafana

2014-11-15 00:00

BAFANA Bafana can book their spot at Afcon 2015 with victory over Sudan at Moses Mabhida Stadium today.

South Africa go into the match top of Group A and undefeated after four qualifying fixtures. Bafana beat Sudan 3-0 away from home when the sides met on September 5, but coach Shakes Mashaba has reiterated time and time again this week that history will count for nothing when the sides kick off at 3 pm. One of the major strengths of Bafana’s qualifying campaign so far has been their defence — highlighted by the fact that they are yet to concede a goal. That was thanks largely to the form of captain and goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa, whose absence from the line-up today after South African football’s greatest tragedy will be a talking point. Bafana will field a new goalkeeper and a new skipper, and what impact that has on the match remains to be seen. Elsewhere on the pitch

Bafana are looking well stocked. Only Thulani Serero was an injury concern this week, but he is expected to have recovered from a muscular strain in time for kick-off.

Some of the key talking points leading up the match:

GOALKEEPER ISSUE

 

WHO will be given the nod to start in goal? That was the question all week. Darren Keet was always the favourite given that he has been a part of Bafana’s qualifying campaign since the beginning, but the inclusion of the in-form Brilliant Khuzwayo made things interesting.

Khuzwayo almost single-handedly won the MTN8 final for Chiefs this season with a man-of-the-match performance against Orlando Pirates, and his league form then prompted Mashaba to bring him in after the Meyiwa tragedy. Mashaba has opted for Keet, and the Belgium-based shot stopper now has a chance on the biggest stage. Keet has only been capped once at international level, and he will have to adjust immediately to put supporters at ease.

 

MIDFIELD BATTLE

ONE of the major positives to emerge from the Mashaba era has been the central midfield partnership between Dean Furman and Andile Jali. The combination was slightly off colour in the 0-0 draw at home to Congo last month, and it had a major impact on the game as Bafana struggled to manufacture clear-cut chances. Mashaba will desperately hope the duo show the form they did in the first three qualifiers. Jali is a vastly improved player since his move abroad (he is currently with KV Oostende in Belgium). His intelligent passing game and his positional sense are complemented by Furman’s boundless energy and strength. Reneilwe Letsholonyane will be looking on with interest as he awaits his 50th cap and a chance to re-stake his claim as Bafana’s anchor.

 

UP FRONT

 

MASHABA was spoilt for choice in attacking options. Up until now he has favoured AmaZulu target man Bongani Ndulula as his goal getter, and that doesn’t change. Ndulula, criticised for being too static against Congo, has answered the international call with two goals in four matches.

Ndulula will likely be a lone striker today, with Tokelo Rantie and Thulani Serero looking to play off of him whenever possible.

Any coach will tell you that he doesn’t care where the goals come from as long as they come, but Bafana need their strikers to get the job done.

Ndulula is the man tasked with that responsibility today, and he has an opportunity to build on what has been an impressive introduction to Bafana.

THE SENZO FACTOR

 

MOSES Mabhida will be nothing short of electric today.

This match was originally meant to be played in Nelspruit, but as a tribute to the late Meyiwa it was moved to his home town.

The motivation of playing this match for their friend, team-mate and leader makes Bafana extremely dangerous.

Sudan will know very quickly that they are up against a side with something to prove.

The danger here is that the technical and tactical discipline all get lost in the enormity of the occasion, and that emotions override common sense and logical decision making.

Bafana must stay grounded. Getting the job done on the scoreboard would be the biggest tribute to Senzo.

 

SERERO’S IMPACT

 

THULANI Serero is back in the Bafana mix after his well-documented fallout with former coach Gordon Igesund.

He has a second chance on the international stage, and it is about time that he took it. Long tipped as one of Bafana’s brightest stars, the 24-year-old Ajax Amsterdam star needs to step up.

He is versatile, and Mashaba has the option of playing him out wide or just behind the striker.

Serero has been capped just 17 times, but he has the potential to become one of the best that our country has ever seen. That all starts today, and Serero needs to put in a passionate, whole-hearted performance.

He is one of the most naturally talented players in the side, and its high time he started living up to expectation.

 

GROUP A STANDINGS

P W D L GF GA GD Pts

SA 4 2 2 0 5 0 5 8

Congo 4 2 1 1 5 4 1 7

Nigeria 4 1 1 2 5 5 0 4

Sudan 4 1 0 3 2 8 -6 3

TODAY’S FIXTURES

SA v Sudan - 3 pm

Congo v Nigeria - 4.30 pm

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