Fate lies in Bafana’s own hands
National team has one chance to erase those 2011 Mbombela memories
Remember Mbombela? Remember the dance of shame!
Remember the shameful scenes in October 2011 when Bafana Bafana players danced in the mistaken belief that a goalless draw against Sierra Leone had been enough to guarantee them qualification to the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations finals?
This afternoon, South African senior national soccer team players have one chance to permanently erase those memories when they take on Morocco in the final Group A match of an Afcon tournament in which they only had their spot assured by virtue of being hosts.
It is a platform Bafana players will have to use simply to say: “Never again.”
“Never again” will they have to rely on merely securing a draw when they can go all out for victory and ensure that their fate is in their own hands.
Against Sierra Leone, in what was Mzansi football’s most shameful moment in recent years, the team casually held on for a draw – a goalless one, nogal – when they were playing at home and could have gone for victory.
“Never again” will they have to depend on calculators and subsequently count on other teams to do them favours in order to reach their desired destination.
In that most embarrassing moment when Bafana danced to the right tune for what later turned out to be the wrong reason – Bafana prayed that Niger lost to Egypt on the same day.
But even when they got the result they thought they needed, when the Pharaohs thrashed Niger in Cairo, it was still not enough.
But “never again” will the entire team fail to understand and interpret the CAF rules, one hopes.
Only one simple thing can, to a certain extent, airbrush the Mbombela debacle – victory over Morocco at Moses Mabhida Stadium this evening (7pm).
Bafana must win the game to ensure they remain at their Durban base, where they have never lost a game in recent years and are guaranteed a full house.
Winning the group would also mean avoiding a team that finishes on top of Group B, which is likely to be Ghana.
Coach Gordon Igesund said he had familiarised himself with the rules.
“I have checked the rules and they are clear.
“We know what we have to do next. We need to win that one. I am not the kind of coach that will go out there and play defensive football. At the same time, I can’t go out there and open up, leaving us vulnerable for Morocco to score. We can’t take that risk because we can’t afford that. We want to make sure we qualify.”
Igesund cautioned against being carried away and said the job was not done yet.
“We can’t continue living in the past. We must only start celebrating once we qualify for the quarterfinals.”
Igesund could be forced to change his line-up as striker Tokelo Rantie is a doubtful starter with a sprained ankle, while Lehlohonolo Majoro has been completely ruled out with a shin injury.
“I have to give it a lot of thought. I was very happy with the team that started and I was happy with the team that finished, but obviously there is a big difference now that we need a point.”
Bafana will once again rely on their pacy attack that troubled Angola on Wednesday.
Morocco will be without their key player, Younes Belhanda, who is suspended for the game.
Captain Lamyaghri Nadir has been their outstanding player so far, saving them against Cape Verde on Wednesday.
Any of the four teams in the group still have a chance of making it into the quarters, but Bafana are in pole position to take the number one spot.
A victory for Bafana will restore the nation’s pride and hope of reclaiming the glory, and redeem their image, which is currently in tatters.
- Timothy Molobi in Durban