(Written: June 11, 2013)
|A new Bafana...|
There was a time when away qualifiers almost held no fear for
. South Africa
From Phil Masinga and Doctor Khumalo’s one-two combo against DR Congo in 1997 to Thabo Mngomeni’s magical bicycle kick in
in 2000, brilliance in
hostile conditions became the norm as Bafana Bafana qualified for five
consecutive major tournaments from 1998 to 2006. Congo
After what can only be described as a lean spell, Saturday’s resounding 3-0 victory over the Central African Republic (CAR) was an overdue throwback to those good ol’ days.
The win was
first away success in a World Cup qualifier since 2008 and the authority with
which it was achieved was impressive. South Africa
Granted, the match was played in neutral Cameroon, but this is the same CAR team that dispatched Egypt in Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifying last year and is rated so highly by Fifa as to have been ranked 49th in the world late in 2012. Simply, whenever you score three goals away from home in
you have done something right.
And several things have gone right for Gordon Igesund since his takeover as
coach 12 months ago. South Africa
One has been the discovery of multiple goal-scoring options. Bernard Parker’s burgeoning nose for goals at club level has translated to the national team, Katlego Mashego is in his prime and in
’s last three outings there have been
five different scorers. South
|Man on form...|
It’s a far cry from when Katlego Mphela seemed Bafana’s one and only avenue for goals.
Suddenly, there’s scoring prowess to the team and this development has the potential to lift
back amongst the upper echelons of the African game. South Africa
It is a major achievement of Igesund’s tenure – solving a scoring conundrum that’s been Bafana’s greatest headache since Benni McCarthy and Shaun Bartlett stopped being fixtures in the national side almost a decade ago. It’s no coincidence
struggles in qualifying for major tournaments have coincided with this period. South Africa
Goals win games.
If goals win games then defence wins championships. Bafana have been solid at the back under Igesund. Saturday’s clean-sheet against CAR was the side’s third in a row and since the start of the Afcon Bafana have only conceded three goals in seven games.
More impressive, perhaps, is the list of top-class defenders out at the moment – Morgan Gould, Siyabonga Sangweni and Tšepo Masilela, for example.
It’s the by-product of the total team effort Igesund has advocated. The midfield, marshalled by Dean Furman and Reneilwe Letsholonyane, provides the platform and every squad member is ready to make an impact whenever called upon.
This balance bodes well.
It’s a steady base on which to build for a team that, in truth, should be amongst the world’s top 30 given the resources and talent at
’s disposal. Healthy
competition is good start. It means a spirited team, always on its toes. That,
in turn, breeds the character that’s clearly growing within Bafana. South Africa
The work for Igesund and his team is not done, though.
remain top of Group A after an impressive 2-1 win over in
Lobatse, also on Saturday. Botswana
|Gordon Igesund's Bafana; something to celebrate|
It won’t be an easy. Coupled with the altitude –
is 2400 metres above sea-level – are a confident, fast
improving side. Ethiopia
Speed is the name of their game and the Walia Antelopes impressed at this year’s Afcon in a group that featured 2012 champions
Zambia as well as
2013’s eventual champions and runners-up, Nigeria
and . Burkina Faso
Further evidence of
upward curve came earlier this month via club side Saint George who became the
first Ethiopian side to progress to the group stage of an African club
competition by qualifying for the Caf Confederation Cup round robin. Ethiopia
Even so, if this is to be the beginning of a return to successful times,
South Africa have to take care of business in . Ultimately,
even with all Bafana’s splendid progress, when it comes to these 2014 World Cup
qualifiers the job is not done just yet. Ethiopia