Bring out the calculators!

Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)
Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)
Here we go again!

Bring out the calculators as Bafana Bafana are at it again!

VIDEO: Fans react to Bafana's draw with Mali

This is the scenario after each country in Group A of the African Nations Championship has played two matches.

So once more ahead of Sunday’s ultimate Group A stages matches in which Gordon Igesund’s charges face their nemesis in Nigeria and Mali tackle the group’s whipping boys, Mozambique, the nation is in that situation where we have to haul out calculators and look at the different permutations.

The big question is: When will our national soccer team ever take their fate into their own hands?

For the record, the results - Bafana beating Mozambique and their dour 1-all draw against Mali combined with Nigeria’s surprise 2-1 loss to their West African neighbours Mali and a thrilling 4-2 victory over Mozambique - means that any of Bafana, Mali and Nigeria can make it to the quarter-finals after Sunday’s matches.

While Bafana still top the Group on four points ahead of Mali who are on the same number of points, they can still bomb out of the competition.

Should this catastrophe happen, it will be the same scenario as in the 2010 Soccer World Cup where our beloved Bafana Bafana made the unfortunate history of becoming the first host nation to bow out in the first round.

They were also knocked out of the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) by the same Mali, in a tournament hosted here last year.

Bafana need to win against Nigeria on Sunday to ensure passage to the next round as this will take them to seven points which would be equal with Mali should they beat Mozambique.

A draw can also ensure that they proceed as they would be on five points and thus finish second, two points behind Mali, if the latter win their match.

However, a loss to Nigeria and a win by Mali against Mozambique will see Mali top the group on seven points and Nigeria come second with a haul of six points. This would mean: Bye bye Bafana Bafana!

Back to the question asked earlier: Why can’t our national team take their own fate into their own hands?

They knew very well going to the Mali game that victory would guarantee them passage to the quarter-finals as they would sit comfortably on six points.

But this was not to be!

That downfall of South African football we’ve been harping on for years - failure to score goals - caught up with them. Once South African players get it drummed into their thick skulls that there is only one purpose or goal (excuse the intended pun) - and that is to get that damn round thing made of pigskin between the two poles and the crossbar - we will continue to suffer.

As the greatest Liverpool manager ever, Bill Shankly, once told a player “Son, you must just put the ball at the back of the net and we will discuss options later”.

Our players must know that scoring goals is the main purpose of playing soccer and is the only way of winning matches.

If they continue to struggle in this basic principle of the game, we will continue having to rely on other nations to do us favours, meaning every time we partake in big tournaments, we will always say if or should such and such happen then we will be through.

It just shouldn’t be like this!

S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.
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