São Paulo ushers in a new era for Bafana

2012-09-08 15:46

Safa president is confident the national team has turned the corner.

Normally, Bafana Bafana’s defeats are greeted with sorrow and a gnashing of teeth.

Gallant and brave losses are usually only accorded to military defeats, but Friday night’s 1-0 loss to Brazil ushered in a new Bafana era.

This seems to be the feeling among the country’s soccer bosses, the sponsors, players and Brazilians, who gave Bafana a standing ovation following the clash with the five-time world champions.

This is likely to spur Bafana on to a successful game on Tuesday in Mbombela, when they tackle Mozambique in another international friendly.

Leading the pack to acknowledge Bafana’s performance – despite the loss – was the SA Football Association (Safa), which gave coach Gordon Igesund the nod to meet their mandate and take the team at least to the semifinal of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in January.

Safa president Kirsten Nematandani said Bafana’s performance showed they had made the right choice in appointing Igesund.

The coach was given a mandate to take the team at least to the semifinals of Afcon and qualify for the 2014 World Cup, which coincidentally will be held in Brazil.

“I am confident the team has turned the corner,” said Nematandani.

“The coach has instilled so much confidence in the boys that it showed in today’s game. Had this same team played against Ethiopia and Botswana, we would have had better results.”

Bafana were held to draws by the two nations, with the first draw at home leading to the sacking of Pitso Mosimane.

Igesund said the match gave him a good foundation to build on for Afcon.

“It is important to get the team right for the Africa Cup of Nations. It’s also important to get the players technically aware,” he said.

“The friendly matches will be important in our build-up.”

Bafana Bafana play Mozambique in another international friendly at Mbombela Stadium on Tuesday night.
They are scheduled to play Poland in another away friendly early next month.

At the end of the match on Friday, Igesund and the players received praise all round.

South Africa’s ambassador to Brazil, Mphakama Mbete, said: “The boys put up a decent effort as a visiting team playing against a football powerhouse like Brazil. The coach has laid a good foundation and I am sure a few months down the line, we will be smiling.”

Speaking on behalf of one of the sponsors, SAB, which has been with Bafana for 20 years, Dr Vincent Mapai said: “Today’s performance showed a substantial improvement. The boys played with confidence and commitment.”

A number of aspects in Friday’s game showed a remarkable change in approach, as the players gave it their all.

They fought for every ball and even when they lost possession, they regrouped immediately to harass their highly esteemed Brazilian counterparts.

Even the players that City Press spoke to after the match sounded confident and excited about the future.

Defender Bongani Khumalo, who was captain for the day, warned players not to get carried away, but rather build from Friday’s performance and show more commitment.

“If you don’t take the result into account, we should be very proud. We showed great discipline and did not afford them any respect. We were in their face. It is a new coach, fresh players and a really fresh start.”

Itumeleng Khune, who gave a sterling performance at goals, pulling off some amazing saves, said in a postmatch television interview: “We were unfortunate to lose this game. Credit must go to all the players as we played as a team. We really took the game to them and showed them no respect. We must be proud and I am sure we have made the nation proud too.”

Besides Khune, there were a number of other players who were outstanding: Siyabonga Sangweni, Lerato Chabangu, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Dean Furman and Bernard Parker.

Benni McCarthy, who replaced the young Dino Ndlovu, who seemed to be at sea before injuring his shoulder following a heavy fall, did not last long either and hobbled off with a pulled hamstring.

This was a pity as a number of decent balls were pumped into the box after his departure and everybody knows what Bennie can do when in the area.

Said McCarthy: “While I was sad and disappointed that I did not finish the game, I am very excited at the way we played.

“Gordon has brought something new to this team that’s been missing for a long time. Even the young players feel at home.

“If the coach continues in this mode, he will not only reach the Afcon final, but will win the trophy. Hey, 1996 was a long time ago.”

»Mseleku is in Brazil courtesy of Safa

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