Ok, maybe not on the field, but we will come close and we are going to Rio (guaranteed!)
And yes, we are going to win the hearts and minds of a billion soccer lovers around the world - just like we did two years ago. Six months is a lifetime in international soccer and six months ago Bafana was the laughing stock of the game having failed to qualify for last African Cup of Nations. After a dismal start to their 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifiers, opponents Central African Republic, Cape Verde Islands and nemesis Sierra Leone were all ahead of them in the African log.
In addition, SA had dropped to 74 in the global rankings, down seven places from the 67 of the previous month.
Enter Gordon Igelsund, the most respected coach in all of South Africa who should have landed the job years ago. In his first match in charge - a ceremonial friendly to hand over the baton from the hosts of the 2010 World Cup to the hosts of the 2014 edition - our boys came alive. Man-of-the match Itumeleng Khune summed up the experience when he said the near-capacity crowd in Sao Paulo ’ended up turning against them and started cheering for us’.
There were moments in the match when Bafana threatened to kick Brazil’s blue butts. We may have lost 1-0 (nobody beats Brazil in Brazil) but South Africa’s pride has been restored. So much so that Igelsund now firmly believes that the team can win the Africa Cup of Nations tournament scheduled in January.
Speaking after the team’s emphatic 2-0 win over Mozambique, he said: ’If the boys continue with the positive attitude, we really can go places including conquering Africa of course.’ He said despite the number of quality South African players plying their trade overseas, a ’good chunk’ should come from South Africa.
More good news for Igelsund - and the rest of the country - is that Amajita, the U-20 side are now firing on all cylinders and are on track to compete in African Youth Championship in Algeria next year. Four top African countries will automatically qualify for the 2013 FIFA Under 20 World Cup to be staged in Turkey later next year. Maybe, just maybe, South Africa is on the verge of becoming a powerhouse in international soccer.
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