Sport

AFCON QUALIFIER

Faltering Bafana register crucial three points

Faltering Bafana register crucial three points
Bafana Bafana beat Sudan 1-0 on Sunday afternoon to earn their first points of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, 17 November 2019 (Photo: Twitter / @BafanaBafana)

South Africa’s senior national men’s team put on a professional display to pick up a much-needed victory in their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Sudan.

In a 16-minute segment of play during their Africa Cup of Nations 2021 qualifier against Sudan, Bafana Bafana showed why so many South African football fans have a love/hate relationship with the team.

South Africa were on the front foot from the first minute at Orlando Stadium on Sunday afternoon, putting on a dominant display that lasted from that first minute up until the 16th.

During that spell — which was spent in Sudan’s half of the field — there was silky interplay, brilliant passing from Kamohelo Mokotjo in midfield, impressive dribbling from Percy Tau and a goal-setting back-heel by Lebogang Phiri.

There were no goals, however, despite three clear chances being created.

The first chance saw target man Lebogang Mothiba miscue in front of goal. The ball rolled on gracefully for right-back Thapelo Morena, and he shot wide with the goal at his mercy. The second chance saw Mothiba once again waste a glorious chance after a dangerous cross from Tau on the left. Man of the match Phiri was denied brilliantly by Sudanese keeper Ali Aboeshren.

The period of dominance ended in disappointment, with Phiri choosing to look at the result as a whole, rather than that spell.

We don’t feel so frustrated because we know the ability we have. We created so many chances before the goal, but we kept the belief in what we were doing — the outcome of the game says it all,” said Phiri in the post-match interview.

Bafana Bafana eventually managed a goal on the brink of half-time as Phiri scored with a screamer on the occasion of his eighth cap for the national team.

Phiri was one of the six changes made by coach Molefi Ntseki after their 2-0 defeat at the hands of the Black Stars of Ghana in their first qualifying game in Ghana last Thursday.

The changes were somewhat forced, with midfield maestro Bongani Zungu suffering a serious knee injury, while the rest of the players travelled immediately after their clash in Ghana to prepare for Sudan on Sunday.

The loss to Ghana was disappointing, considering that the Black Stars have been far from their best in the past two years — off-field problems in the form of politics in the Ghanaian Football Association spilling onto the field.

However, on Thursday they managed to put all that aside to pick up a crucial three points on the road to Cameroon in 2021.

On Sunday, Ntseki ditched the 4-3-3 formation he’d deployed in Ghana in favour of a 4-2-3-1, Tau, Phiri and Thulani Serero making up a fluid trio behind Mothiba.

At the end of it all, South Africa held on for maximum points, despite signs of fatigue creeping in, with several players cramping up towards the end.

We are happy because we got the three points, even though we created so many chances and should have scored more. But in the second half it was more difficult because the legs were getting tired,” said Bafana talisman Tau.

It might have not been the most clinical performance, but Ntseki and his men will be happy for the three points.

I think under the circumstances we did well, under the circumstances we got the three points that we were looking for,” said Ntseki after the game.

Their next two fixtures in the qualification campaign are against minnows Sao Tome and Principe in August and September 2020. They will hope to collect a full complement of six points, thus ensuring that they put pressure on Ghana and Sudan.

Anything less than the six points on offer will leave Bafana in the lurch and flailing for qualification. DM

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