A win for Bafana and African football

2014-10-11 21:52

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African football getting somewhere as Congolese fans embrace qualifier in the true spirit of the beautiful game

Three more points and Bafana Bafana will secure a ticket to next year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco.

This could be as early as Wednesday – if they beat the same Congo-Brazzaville at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane.

This after they broke the Congolese hearts in their own backyard today with a 2-0 victory.

Shakes Mashaba is set to become the first coach since Carlos Parreira in 2008 to qualify Bafana for the continental showpiece.

It took only five minutes for Bafana Bafana to go back to the summit of Group A and have one leg in next year’s Africa Cup of Nations.

Mashaba must have come down hard on his players at interval as they came back a different team in the second half.

But it took another Senzo Meyiwa’s brilliant save in the 49th minute to keep them in the game.

The response was swift immediately as Bongani Ndulula put them ahead in the 54th minute with a well-taken bicycle kick.

Two minutes later Tokelo Rantie put the game beyond Congo’s reach with another good goal after a brilliant pass from Dean Furman. From then on all Bafana needed was to be alert and protect their goals which they did with aplomb as they gave nothing away at the back.

Bafana were not overawed by the occasion and the intimidating atmosphere even though it took them some time to get going.

As expected the Red Devils were the busiest early on in the game and Senzo Meyiwa had to twice come to Bafana’s rescue in the seventh and ninth minutes.

But after absorbing the pressure Bafana slowly got their footing with Andile Jali and Dean Furman finding their footing in the middle of the park. Bafana could have taken the lead only for Tokelo Rantie to waste a Thulani Serero’s best-laid ball.

It was a scrappy affair as chances were limited although both sides looked like scoring every time they pushed forward.

To the disappointment of the locals Moroccan referee Bouchaib El Ahrach waived play on in the 43rd minute after Thievy Guivane went down in the box.

And the scoreboard was still asking for some action when El Ahrach blew for the break with both sides yet to score.

The weather gods were also smiling on the South Africans as the weather conditions were perfect for a good football match. It was partly-cloudy and not extremely hot as it was expected, although it was humid.

The only challenge for Bafana was to adapt to the Astroturf conditions but it was not a problem as they were quick to get their act together and they settled in quickly.

We were in for a great game.

Bafana were welcomed by some rowdy supporters who made it clear that they were in for a hiding. Most of them, who couldn’t get seats in the already-packed stadium, seem to be Kaizer Chiefs followers as they all made a two-finger sign – implying Bafana were going to go down by 2-0.

They got the scoreline right but only the wrong side.

But the South Africans were not to be intimidated by those tactics as they stayed focused and singing their usual pep up songs.

Bafana had been warned by this kind of reception and they did heed the warning as they ignored the intimidating tactics and went on with their cores on the field.

Two hours prior to kickoff the stadium was packed to capacity making it difficult to move around. You needed to be here to experience the atmosphere first hand as the stadium erupted when the home side came in for a warm up.

But inside the field the locals were friendly to the visitors, unlike 17 years ago when gun-touting soldiers intimidated Bafana.

The country has transformed beyond imagination and word on the ground is that people are tired of fighting and all they needed was peace.

Mashaba had also emphasised the importance of turning the negatives into positives and use football as a unifying factor.

African football is getting somewhere.

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