WORLD CUP AGONY
Coach Hugo Broos upbeat over Bafana Afcon prospects despite WC qualifying downfall against Ghana
They came, they almost conquered, but ultimately were vanquished, albeit under controversial circumstances that Safa is contesting.
Bafana Bafana’s 1-0 loss to Ghana in Cape Coast ensured the West African nation ended the penultimate stage of African qualification for the 2022 World Cup at the summit on Group G.
The victory came after Senegalese referee Maguette Ndiaye awarded a dubious penalty to the Ghanaians in the first half, which captain Andre Ayew dispatched.
The Black Stars, quarterfinalists at the 2010 edition hosted by South Africa, edged Bafana Bafana to first place on goals scored after the two nations finished level on 13 points apiece, as well as the same goal difference of +4 each.
Ultimately, Ghana’s seven goals from their six group games, compared to the six of South Africa, ensured them passage to the playoff round for African qualifying.
In spite of the disappointment of not making it to Qatar after such a surprisingly splendid campaign where they had only conceded a single goal prior to their defeat to Ghana, Bafana coach Hugo Broos says he is proud of the efforts of his unfancied team.
“We did very good work in the last three months. If you had asked before the qualifiers how South Africa would do, nobody would have said we will be first in our group before the last game. So, from that side, I think we did a very good job. There is a team again in South Africa,” the Belgian told journalists after the game.
South Africa went to Ghana knowing that a draw or victory would be sufficient for them to clinch their group and move on to the two-legged knockout qualifying phase. A defeat would eliminate them from the running.
However, with the Ghanian fans passionately cheering on their team at the Cape Coast stadium, the South Africans seemed to be nervous and much of the game, up until the goal, was played in South Africa’s half.
The penalty, which came after South African defender Rushine De Reuck was adjudged to have bundled over Ghana’s Daniel Amartey during a corner kick, compounded South Africa’s nerves away from home. That some of the team’s key players such as Percy Tau and Teboho Mokoena were off the pace did little to help the situation.
The fact that they conceded the controversial penalty from a phantom corner which was wrongfully awarded after Jordan Ayew kicked the ball out himself, would’ve made the South Africans even more anxious.
— Sbu Mthembu (@sbu_mthembu) November 15, 2021
Nevertheless, Broos said there were many positives to take from this campaign, which he conducted with a largely inexperienced and young squad.
He and his charges now have their eyes on qualifying for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) and the 2026 World Cup. Unlike qualification for the 2022 World Cup, reaching those two competitions is a prerequisite for Broos.
“Look, we came here to try to play a good game, to play a draw or maybe win. When you are so close, and you’re in the position we were in, we tried to do it,” stated Broos.
“But we played against a very strong team, and the team with 10 times more experience than we have, at the moment. We are a new team, so you cannot blame South Africa for not qualifying for the next round. Not at all, but you can be sure that there is a team again in South Africa, and that we will try to qualify for the next Afcon.”
The South African Football Association (Safa) has since announced that it will formally write to world football’s governing body, Fifa, to lodge a complaint of possible match-fixing.
The organisation’s CEO Tebogo Motlanthe confirmed their stance on Monday morning.
“For us, the match officials have decided the game, which isn’t what is supposed to happen. As the association, we have decided we will be writing to both CAF and Fifa to investigate how the game was handled, and secondly to also challenge some of these decisions. We have already registered with the match commissioner that we will be writing a formal complaint,” said Motlanthe.
“We are very disheartened by their action and we can’t leave it and let it destroy the players when we have the chance to challenge it. We feel very much robbed because it is not an isolated incident of a penalty — there are just a lot of questionable decisions by match officials.”
The association says it is confident after a similar debacle in 2017 during a match between South Africa and Senegal, in which referee Joseph Lamptey awarded a questionable penalty. Fifa banned Lamptey for life and ordered a replay of the match, which Bafana had originally won 2-1.
They lost the replay and the Senegalese went on to reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia. DM