Two goals either side of half time were enough to ensure that South Africa does not only qualify for the CAF Africa Cup of Nations Equatorial Guinea 2015 tournament, but also win the group with one match to spare. Bafana Bafana beat Sudan 2-1 in a pulsating clash at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday while Nigeria defeated Congo 2-0 in another Group A match played at Pointe Noire. The results mean none of the countries can topple Bafana Bafana who are on 11 points – four more than the second-placed Nigeria and Congo, while Sudan is bottom of the table with 3 points.
The battle for second place is now between the Super Eagles and the Red Devils. In the last qualifying rounds Nigeria hosts South Africa on Wednesday, 19 November while Congo will play against Sudan on the same day. Livewire Thulani Serero, who was chosen Man of the Match, and striker Tokelo Rantie got the goals for South Africa, but the visitors reduced the deficit late in the second half.
The fans also came out in numbers to a match which was switched from Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit to Durban in honour of the slain Bafana Bafana and Orlando Pirates goalkeeper and captain Senzo Meyiwa, whose father was also watching from the stands. Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba said he was impressed with the display throughout the qualifiers. The coach was particularly thrilled to help the team qualify for the 2015 AFCON. “I am glad to have seen the boys play the kind of football they played after a very long time. There was everything you would have asked for as a coach. But we nearly gave it away towards the end of the game, the players all switched off and went to sit at the back and we invited trouble, but we managed to hold up,” said Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba.
“I would like to say congratulations to the players, we are still left with one game, against Nigeria. I know people will think it is going to be a walkover; no we are going to put out our best team. It is more than three points at stake when we go to Nigeria. It’s going to be another tough game like the one we played today which many thought was going to be easy. Thanks to all the supporters, their presence helped us conquer,” Mashaba continued. This was the first time South Africa had conceded in five matches of the qualifiers, with seven goals. “Obviously we would have loved to round off qualifiers without conceded any goals, but that doesn’t matter now we have qualified for AFCON 2015 and it’s the most important thing now. It has been a long time since we qualified for this prestigious tournament. It was good to revive the good old memories of qualifying. We are not going to Equatorial Guinea to make up the numbers. We have to go there and compete, and bring back our image as one of the good teams on the continent. Thanks also to the South African Football Association (SAFA) for the assistance as well as the sponsors,” added Mashaba.
Captain of the day, Dean Furman said the victory wiped the sad memories of failing to qualify for 2014 World Cup in Brazil. “We are delighted with the victory, we knew what we had to do and we are going to the finals after such a long time failing to qualify. We started off well and the performance of the players was just excellent. But after the two goals we took our foot off the pedal a bit which made the last ten minutes nervous, something we need to work on. We dedicated the win to Senzo who was in our minds the whole week and today,” said the England-based midfielder. “It was an incredible and much-needed win. Personally, it was a great honour, not in my career but my life to captain the national team but I know based on today’s performance we saw leaders all over the field. This win will help us forget what happened at this very stadium when our hearts were broken after we defeated Botswana for Brazil 2014 but we still didn’t qualify because we were playing catch up back then. Today the difference is that it was in our own hands, and it was vital that we get it done. The next match is against Nigeria and we want to maintain our undefeated record by getting a win,” Furman added.