Safa takes on CAF after Bafana shock

2011-10-08 20:22

Nation taken on a roller coaster of emotions – from celebration to dismay over not qualifying

The South African Football Association (Safa) has confirmed to have written a letter to Confederation of African Football (CAF), challenging qualifying criteria that saw Niger go through to the finals of the African Cup of Nations ahead of Bafana Bafana.

Safa vice president Mandla “Shoes” Mazibuko said the letter was sent immediately after establishing that Bafana had not actually qualified for the tournament.

“We are not satisfied about the decision, our CEO has written to CAF and we want to engage further. As far as we are concerned, a goal-difference rule should be the first criteria,” said Mazibuko.

Shortly after the qualifying match between Bafana and Sierra Leone, which ended in a goalless draw at the Mbombela Stadium last night, CAF confirmed that South Africa did not qualify for next year’s tournament in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

The draw meant that teams in Group G all ended on nine points.

South Africa, Niger and Sierra Leone all finished equal on points although Bafana topped the group because of a better goal difference.

South Africans woke up to the sad reality that it was a case of so close yet so far as many thought the team was through.

The final whistle was met by celebrations but, as it turned out, it was not to be.

But coach Pitso Mosimane’s body language was not convincing as he told of his confusion as well.

“We don’t know if we are coming or going and at the moment we have mixed feelings.

During a post-match media briefing, an exasperated Mosimane said: “I need someone to resolve this jigsaw puzzle but it will be a sad story if we didn’t qualify because we deserve to be in the finals.”

Mosimane also conceded that his team could have done better in the second half, when it seemed they took their foot off the pedal.

He said it was difficult to exert pressure in the second half after getting the score from Cairo, where Egypt had beaten Niger.

Bafana joined other African powerhouses Nigeria, Cameroon and Egypt in failing to book a ticket to Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

But Bafana should have done better last night as they failed to capitalise on the few chances they created.

In four matches, they have failed to score against Sierra Leone and this should be disconcerting for Mosimane.

But this should not have been in the first place as Bafana needed an outright victory over the Leone Stars to avoid the confusion.

The team was not convincing at all, despite having a large chunk of ball possession.

Even Mosimane admitted that they did not play well in the second half as they seemed to be content with a draw.

Bafana started cautiously in the opening minutes and never threatened the visitors.

They spread the ball well from the back but lacked bite up front as they could not penetrate their opponent’s defence.

It was not surprising that the first corner was only conceded in the 20th minute.

But as the game progressed, Bafana came out of their shadows and took the game to the visitors.

Buoyed by the vociferous crowd, the team started playing with vigour and forced the Leone Stars on the back foot.

But they could not convert this surge into anything meaningful on the scoreboard by half time and for the rest of the encounter.

Surprisingly, Mosimane left the experienced Reneilwe Letsholonyane on the bench as he opted for young Daylon Claasen after Thulani Serero failed to recover timeously from his groin strain.

But the young midfielder showed his class as he played like a veteran, considering that this was only his fourth game in Bafana colours.

Katlego Mphela, who has been Bafana’s saviour in recent matches, seemed to have forgotten his scoring boots at home as he struggled to get his game together.

Goalkeepers Itumeleng Khune and Christian Caulker were hardly tested.

Although the game was in Mbombela, the concentration was not entirely in Mpumalanga as South Africans were interested in the proceedings thousands of kilometres away in Cairo. What was happening in Egypt had a bearing on this game, hence the divided attention.

The two countries went into this game with a chance of qualifying for the finals as they were separated by a goal difference.

Bafana had not beaten the West African country in their previous three outings.

– Additional reporting by Ntombi Moleme 

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