For the first time in many years, South Africans feel like they only have to support their own team to qualify for a tournament. For so many years it’s been a case of, “We need to win by three goals and hope that…”, or “I want Bafana to win, but can we count on so and so…”. Those days look like they’re behind us now with a Bafana Bafana that is even winning away games.
After we won in Sudan, a lot of people were saying it’s just Sudan, failing to see the importance of the three points and the fact that we’ve been beaten by worse teams in our own backyard, so an away win was a huge thing. Now this past weekend we beat Congo in Pointe Noire. If you have been following football for a long time you will know that it’s not a place Bafana enjoy playing.
The team that played there in 1997 can attest to this. Another thing that we were looking at is their coach, Claude Le Roy. I mean the man has been everywhere on this continent. Senegal, Ghana, DR Congo and Cameroon are some of the top teams that the Frenchman has taken to the African showpiece. It is this resume that gave the media and the fans a bit of discomfort heading into that game.
In the end the team pulled off an impressive 2-0 win to give the Congolese their first loss of the campaign. Now after three games, which is the halfway stage of the qualifiers, Bafana are sitting pretty at the top of the log, and have a very good opportunity to wrap it up even before playing Nigeria. If we were able to beat both Congo and Sudan away, there’s absolutely no reason we should not beat them here at home.
That will give us thirteen points, and mathematically none of the other teams can catch us then. So it would be nice to go to Nigeria not really needing to win for once. Like I said, for the first time in a very long time, we have this feel good factor and we look like we’re in control of our own fate. Credit must go to ‘the cheap option’ Mashaba for his fearless approach since taking over the team.
What a lot of coaches have promised in the past but failed has been perfected by this coach. No player feels like they own a shirt in the team and everyone also knows they have a chance to play. In the past, when Itumeleng Khune was injured like he is now, we just knew that he would simply get the gloves back as soon as he regains fitness.
Now the Kaizer Chiefs shot-stopper must be feeling the heat because Senzo Meyiwa of Orlando Pirates has been doing really well, keeping a clean sheet in all the matches he’s played. And if what Shakes has shown us is anything to go by, Khune is going to have to do something special to break back into the team. A special mention has to also go to Rivaldo Coetzee who at 17 is the youngest player to ever play for South Africa, and this also highlighted the bravery of coach Mashaba.