‘We let ourselves down’

2015-01-29 00:00

THE “what ifs” will be plaguing the minds of Bafana Bafana’s 2015 Afcon squad following a disappointing showing at the tournament.

Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss to Ghana was the final nail in the coffin, and Bafana will arrive back in South Africa with a solitary point to show for their efforts in Equatorial Guinea as they finished bottom of group C.

There were positives along the way — Bafana took the lead in all of their three matches — but the cold, hard truth is that this side are a long way away from becoming a dominant force on the continent. They are a young, determined bunch, but what the last two weeks has shown is that they lack the composure and experience to close out games at the top level. In all three encounters Bafana were let down by their performances in the final third of the match as well as the final third of the pitch.

Finishing off chances remains a problem area, while inconsistency in goal — coach Shakes Mashaba used a different goalkeeper in each game — is also a point that warrants immediate attention.

All is not lost. At least Bafana qualified for Afcon this time around, and at least they scored goals in all of their games. Group C was always going to be the most tightly contested, and that Bafana took it down to the wire is nothing to be sniffed at. But the record books won’t show all of the “maybes”. They won’t show that Bafana were a penalty kick away from almost certain victory against Algeria in their tournament opener, nor will they show that Bafana were a goal away from qualifying for the knockouts with 45 minutes to play. All that will be remembered is that Bafana Bafana finished bottom of the group without a win in what was a failed campaign.

“We came here with high hopes and realistically we let ourselves down in a similar way in all three games,” Bafana captain Dean Furman said yesterday. “We took the lead brilliantly and we played some outstanding football throughout the tournament.”

But Furman, after completing his second Afcon with the national side, knows that good performances count for ­nothing unless you can convert them ­into victories.

“This is tournament football and there is no time for performances or plaudits,” he said. “It’s all about points only and that is something we need to learn as well; however we get the points we must make sure we get them.”

Bafana were simply outclassed in the second half against Ghana and barely saw the ball in those 45 minutes.

“After a bit of a shaky start in the second half we lost our composure on the ball, stopped passing and stopped playing the way we are used to,” said Furman. “Maybe there was so much at stake and we were so eager to get over the line a bit, our style of play just deserted us.”

Attention will now shift back to the local PSL with Bafana playing no further part in the tournament, but Furman will take some personal positives from the ­experience.

“It was an absolute honour to lead the team out,” he said. “Just being involved in the team is a privilege but to be captain was a great honour and something I will cherish for the rest of my career.”

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