Road to Rio: no margin for error

Timothy Molobi advises coach Gordon Igesund not to rush into an inspection mission in Brazil ahead of the 2014 Fifa World Cup as Bafana Bafana still have a rocky road to travel on the continent before the big event kicks off

Away Fixtures

Bafana’s 2-0 win over the Central African Republic (CAR) last weekend gave coach Gordon Igesund a reason to be optimistic about Bafana’s chances of qualifying.

However, the team’s real test remains in the two fixtures that take place away from home in quick succession in June.

In reality, South Africa’s chances of winning the group are hanging in the balance as only victories in all their remaining three games will guarantee they finish on top.

And this is if they score two back-to-back victories away at CAR and Ethiopia.

Bafana tend to freeze when playing away from home and they will need to change their fortunes this time around.

Under Igesund, the team has scored a single victory on the road – a 2-1 against Kenya in Nairobi last year – and suffered defeats against Brazil in São Paulo and Poland in Warsaw.

Khune Factor

For Bafana to stand a chance of coming back from their away games with favourable results, they will need all their key players.

Goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune is one game away from suspension after he was booked last weekend for wasting time.

Bafana goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune has been a vital cog for the national team because of his good saves and commendable ball distribution. The Bafana captain and Kaizer Chiefs number one was booked last weekend against the Central African Republic for wasting time and he cannot afford one more yellow card. Picture: Steve Haag/Getty Images

One more booking will result in the Kaizer Chiefs number one being suspended for one game and Bafana can’t afford to miss their recently appointed captain as he has proved to be a match winner in recent matches.

Bafana’s Remaining Fixtures

June 7: SA vs CAR (TBA)

Playing at a neutral venue will boost Bafana’s chances of beating CAR as they have proved to be a tough nut to crack at home.

After easily disposing of CAR last weekend, Bafana will fancy their chances of repeating or even increasing the score line.

CAR’s qualifying chances will also hinge on this game as they have already lost twice and another defeat will end their dreams.

This match will be difficult for both sides as there won’t be any room for error, but Bafana will go into the game on the back of a positive result last weekend.

June 14: Ethiopia vs SA (Addis Ababa)

In Ethiopia, Bafana are likely to face a hostile reception from the multitudes of partisan supporters. Ethiopia remain Bafana’s main rivals in the group.

Bafana will need to topple the Ethiopians in their own back yard.

Ethiopia lead the group with seven points, two clear of second-placed Bafana on five.

Ethiopia held Bafana to a 1-1 draw in June last year and Igesund’s men will have to be more clinical in front of goals.

September 6: SA vs Botswana (TBA)

It might come to the last games as Bafana may need to beat neighbours Botswana to win the group.

The rivalry between these two countries is well documented and the Zebras will be difficult prey to hunt.

Both drew 1-1 last year.

Botswana have lost their two away games to CAR and Ethiopia, but against South Africa they will be out to prove a point.

The ten group winners will contest the five places – on home and away basis – in a series that will determine Africa’s representatives at the World Cup in Brazil.

Tie-breakers

If teams are even on points at the end of group play, the tied teams will be ranked by:

» Goal difference in all group matches;

» Greater number of goals scored in all group matches;

» Greater number of points obtained in matches between the tied teams;

» Goal difference in matches between the tied teams;

» Greater number of goals scored in matches between the tied teams; and

» Greater number of away goals scored in matches between the tied teams if only two teams are tied.

» If teams are still equal, a single play-off at a neutral venue will be played.

If scores are level after 90 minutes in the play-off, then two 15-minute periods of extra time and (if required) a penalty shoot-out will determine the winner.

Group leaders at halfway mark

Group B: Tunisia are five points clear ahead of Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea and Cape Verde

Group C: Ivory Coast lead Tanzania by a point, followed by Morocco and Gambia

Group D: Ghana trails Zambia by one point in a group that Lesotho and Sudan are also part of

Group E: Congo Brazzaville boast a 100% record, followed by Burkina Faso, Niger and Gabon, all on three points

Group F: Nigeria lead by virtue of a better goal difference over Malawi (both are on five points). Namibia and Kenya are lagging behind

Group G: Egypt won all three matches and are trailed by Guinea, Mozambique and Zimbabwe

Group H: Algeria (better goal difference) and Mali are tied on six points, followed by Benin and Rwanda

Group I: Cameroon are in pole position (six points), with Libya a point behind. Democratic Republic of Congo and Togo complete the group

Group J: Senegal (five points) tops Liberia by a point, with Angola and Uganda also behind

» The qualifiers will resume in June

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