Bafana – it’s now or never

Win over Central African Republic crucial for 2014 World Cup.

Bafana Bafana’s qualification for next year’s Fifa World Cup finals in Brazil hinges heavily on their Saturday night match against Central African Republic (CAR).

While the Cape Town Stadium encounter might not yet be regarded as the proverbial matter of life and death by many, dropping further points might prove catastrophic for our beloved Bafana.

They have already dropped a precious four points by drawing against Ethiopia and Botswana in their two opening Group A matches.

This week’s move by coach Gordon Igesund to omit seriously out-of-form captain Bongani Khumalo and replace him with goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune as captain, who, together with Dean Furman, were by far the best players during the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), is an indication of how seriously he regards this game.

The result could also have a bearing on Igesund’s future, as he has already failed in one of his mandates given by his employers, the SA Football Association,

when he was appointed, which was to at least reach the semifinals of Afcon.

His second mandate was to qualify the team for the Brazil shindig.

Should Igesund fail to collect maximum points and get fired, it will bring back that nauseating question: is the chopping and changing of coaches the answer to the country’s dwindling football fortunes?

Bafana will play back-to-back matches against the CAR on Saturday with the next match in June, away. Anything less than maximum points will likely mean the end of the road.

Bafana are third on the table on two points, a point behind the CAR and a further two behind leaders Ethiopia.

The two draws, against Ethiopia and Botswana, happened in the opening matches last year, and Igesund was brought in to get the campaign back on track following the sacking of Pitso Mosimane.

Bafana do fancy the CAR as the perfect vehicle to get their World Cup aspirations back up to full speed. And Igesund understands the Brazil implications of the match only too well.

The nation has, on the whole, endorsed Igesund’s wielding of the axe on Khumalo and former crowd-favourite Thulani Serero after both let him down during

the Afcon tournament.

Khumalo has been deemed a liability at the back by many observers.

Despite all this bravado, failure to get maximum points against the little-known CAR team will not sit well with anyone from South Africa.

Judging by his team selection this week, Igesund is well aware of the prospects facing his team and he has promised to go for an all-out attack to win the game, exactly as the situation demands.

Igesund said he has opted for such an offensive team because he has to take the game to the visitors. “We have to win this game by all means, hence the selection of the team. There is a huge difference between a team for Afcon and for a game like this,” said an optimistic Igesund.

He said he was expecting a difficult outing against the physically?imposing men from

the CAR.

“I have been watching their tapes and they are very physical and kick anything that moves. But if we play our normal game, like we did against Mali and Morocco in the Nations Cup, we should easily beat them.”

Bafana need to win all their remaining home fixtures, against the CAR on Saturday, and Botswana in September, and also have to win at least one away.

The time for complacency is long gone.

By dropping Khumalo, Igesund took a gamble, as his other two centre backs, Morgan Gould and Siyabonga Sangweni, have just come back from injuries.

Gould has only played a handful of matches after a long lay-off owing to an Achilles tendon injury, while Sangweni only returned to action last weekend.

But Igesund said he was happy with the pair’s fitness levels and physical strength.

While the country’s number one shot stopper, Khune, has been given the armband, Igesund said this was not a permanent arrangement.

“Nothing is permanent in football. Let’s see what happens in future. There are lots of players who can be leaders in the team, but for now Itu has been doing well for his club.”

Bafana Bafana squad that will play against CAR

Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune, Wayne Sandilands, Senzo Meyiwa

Defenders: Morgan Gould, Tsepo Masilela, Siyabonga Sangweni, Thabo Nthethe, Anele Ngcongca, Siyanda Xulu and Thabo Matlaba

Midfielders: Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Daine Klate, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Dean Furman, May Mahlangu, Oupa Manyisa, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Daylon Claasen, Lerato Chabangu and Thuso Phala

Strikers: Bernard Parker, Dino Ndlovu, Tokelo Rantie

Group A 2014World Cup qualifier fixtures

SATURDAY: South Africa vs Central African Republic (CAR)

(Cape Town Stadium, 8pm)

SUNDAY: Ethiopia vs Botswana

(Addis Ababa National Stadium, 4pm)

JUNE 7: Botswana vs Ethiopia

JUNE 7: CAR vs South Africa

JUNE 14: Ethiopia vs South Africa

JUNE 14: Botswana vs CAR

SEPTEMBER 6: South Africa vs Botswana

SEPTEMBER 6: CAR vs Ethiopia

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