Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki has shouldered the blame for the team’s failure to qualify for next year’s Afcon finals in Cameroon.
Speaking shortly after South Africa were sent packing with an embarrassing 2-0 defeat to Sudan on Sunday, the coach said the team was aware of the pain it had caused the nation.
Bafana had no business losing the match at Al Hilal Stadium in Omdurman because all they needed was a draw to advance with Ghana in Group C.
However, the early signs of a likely elimination were there when South Africa trailed just five minutes into the game and their cause was not helped by failure to capitalise on the chances to at least draw the game.
Many are now calling for the Ntseki’s head, but the former schoolteacher has owned up after the team finished third in the group and subsequently missed out on a golden ticket to Cameroon.
“Yes, as a coach, as head of the [player] selection committee, my disappointment is very huge - it’s very huge for my personal growth and achievement as head coach of Bafana Bafana,” conceded the 51-year-old.
Ntseki added: “The disappointment also goes to all South Africans - as players and coaches, we are aware of the emotional pain we have caused South Africans.
“The success of the team is my success and the failure of the team firstly starts with me, to say, I have failed as a coach.
In football we need to own up because when there is success you become everybody’s favourite but when there is failure you become an orphan. Everybody is looking up to you to say ‘you failed the team, and you could not qualify’. But things like these happen in football. We need to own up and be very strong.”
WHERE DID IT ALL GO WRONG?
Ntseki admitted that the draw against Ghana in their penultimate Afcon qualifier last week made South Africa pay a heavy price of failing to book a spot at next year’s continental championships in Cameroon.
This is the fourth time since 2010 that South Africa have failed to qualify for Afcon finals having also fell short in the 2012 and 2017 qualifiers.
On Sunday, Bafana were a goal down five minutes into the game and failure to convert chances - with effort off the upright - thereafter only saw them chase a 2-0 deficit after 40 minutes courtesy of goals form Saifeldin Bakhit and Abdel Raman.
Ntseki rued South Africa’s 1-1 draw against Ghana at FNB Stadium last Thursday as it was in fact the result that proved fatal going into the game against a Sudanese side that has won all their group matches at home.
“If you look at the games we won and the points we accumulated, we became very confident to say we’ll qualify - and the expectations were created to say the team will do well against Ghana at home and against Sudan away” said the coach.
“Drawing against Ghana made life difficult for ourselves coming into Sudan because we knew it will be in a foreign land with foreign challenges.”
“After the analysis of the Sudan game, I think we started on the wrong foot and conceded very early. The idea was not to concede because we were fully aware of where we were because of the point we had in the bag.”
South Africa went into the game jointly on 10 points with Ghana but the Black Stars topped the group due to a better head-to-head ranking as determined by the CAF’s competition rules.
Sudan were on nine points and needed a win to overhaul Bafana.
Even if Ghana had also lost to São Tomé and Príncipe in the game that also played on Sunday, Bafana still would not have qualified because they lost to Ghana in their first round group clash.
“We need to be very honest with ourselves on the challenges we came up against going into camp for the Sudan and Ghana matches because of Covid-19 [pandemic] we couldn’t get our regular players. And again, with the players we brought in, who did well against Ghana [last week], they were excused because of injuries.
Read: Crisis hits Bafana camp
We had to start afresh in terms of bringing in new personnel,” Ntseki explained further.
The most notable change was that of Thabang Monare, who came in the place of Andile Jali, who was stretched off 25 minutes into the game against Ghana.
“We allowed the Sudanese side to take out the point we had and they ended up taking maximum points, which is a very big setback for us. But missing chances also doesn’t win you games. So it is just unfortunate that we are talking about a team that was almost about to qualify,” lamented Ntseki.
FAILING TO MEET THE EXPECTATIONS
“The disappointment is not just for us but for the SA Football Association because the mandate is very clear: is the team qualifying for every continental and world tournaments so that we can put Bafana on the map again, in terms of the type of football we play and the results we get. Not qualifying has dented our image, our possibilities of improving CAF and Fifa rankings,” said Ntseki.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR BAFANA?
While Ntseki’s future with the team remains a topic of discussion, Bafana must now turn their attention to the 2022 World Cup qualifiers second round that starts in May and runs until November.