Bafana Bafana

Molefi Ntseki's best chance to guide Bafana towards Afcon qualification

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Molefi Ntseki (Gallo Images)
Molefi Ntseki (Gallo Images)
  • Bafana Bafana are scheduled to play Sao Tome and Principe in back-to-back 2021 Africa Cup Nations qualifiers.
  • The Friday and Monday games will be head coach Molefi Ntseki's sixth and seventh matches in charge of the national team.
  • Victories in both games would steer Bafana Bafana towards the brink of Afcon qualification.

It is that time of the year again when domestic football is shelved for two weeks and the focus shifts to national teams around the world.

Bafana Bafana have two vital 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifying fixtures against Sao Tome and Principe in Durban and Port Elizabeth approaching.

To head coach Molefi Ntseki's fortune, both matches are set to be hosted in the country due to the coronavirus pandemic, giving the Bafana Bafana mentor more days on the training pitch instead of having to travel and risk tiring players out.

Molefi Ntseki and Thulani Hlatshwayo
Molefi Ntseki chats to Thulani Hlatshwayo during the Bafana Bafana welcome press conference at Maharani Hotel (Gallo Images)
Gallo Images

The first match takes place on Friday 13 November (kick-off is at 21:00) at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, while the second encounter is scheduled for Monday 16 November (15:00) at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

Ntseki has already been hit with massive blows, as Thamsanqa Mkhize and fellow defender Abbubaker Mobara both tested positive for coronavirus. Adding to that, Thibang Phete, Andile Jali, Thulani Serero and Bradley Grobler have also withdrawn from the squad due to "medical reasons".

The 51-year-old head coach moved on swiftly and called up Musa Lebusa, Vincent Pule, Thapelo Morena, Tshepo Rikhotso and Thabo Nodada to the Bafana Bafana camp in KwaZulu-Natal.

Sao Tome are currently ranked 182nd in world football while Bafana, who are expected to win both matches, are placed 77th in the recently released FIFA rankings.

Ntseki has overseen five matches since inking a five-year contract with the South African Football Association to lead the senior men's national team.

His first match was an international friendly against Mali (13 October 2019) that Bafana Bafana won 2-1 courtesy of goals from Dean Furman and Themba Zwane.

A month later (14 November 2019), Afcon qualifiers kicked off and he suffered his first defeat - a 2-0 loss to African football powerhouse Ghana.

However, three days after the disappointing result, Ntseki saw his side claim a slender but crucial 1-0 win over Sudan to move up to second place in Group C, behind the Black Stars.

Bafana Bafana players
South African coach Molefi Ntseki speaks to players during the International Friendly match between South Africa and Zambia at Royal Bafokeng Stadium (Gallo Images)
Gallo Images

It would then take 11 months for South Africa to be on the field of play again because of the coronavirus pandemic.

On 8 October 2020, Bafana took on neighbours Namibia in an international friendly that ended in a 1-1 stalemate. Days later, they entertained Zambia but succumbed to a 2-1 defeat.

Ntseki would want to win both the upcoming Sao Tome matches as it would take the pressure off him until the next international break.

Defeat or a draw in one or both matches would cast further doubts over Ntseki's appointment, considering the South African football fraternity does not hold back on criticism when things go awry.

He would also want to avoid heading into the final two games relying on other results in the group to qualify for next year's tournament in Cameroon, something South Africa is far too familiar with in the past.

bafana bafana
The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualification Group C

Despite the extensive player withdrawals, Ntseki has enough quality in the squad to rely on to win both matches.

In goal, Darren Keet, Ronwen William and Itumeleng Khune are well equipped and experienced enough to keep things tidy at the back, whoever is selected.

Thulani Hlatshwayo, Motjeka Madisha, Themba Zwane, Bongani Zungu, Percy Tau, Luther Singh and Kermit Erasmus are talented enough to see off a relatively unknown Sao Tome.

Six massive points are on offer for South Africa, and if Ntseki manages to lead his side to victories on Friday and Monday, it would steer Bafana Bafana on towards Afcon qualification and possibly advance to Cameroon by virtue of finishing in the top two in the group. 

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