Right, so Bafana Bafana finally got their Africa Cup of Nations campaign underway on Monday, and I think it’s fair to say all South Africans are probably gutted by the result in that match against Algeria. Not because the team lost, but because it’s a game we should have easily won. Going into this one there was a lot of talk about the rankings, obviously because Algeria is ranked number one on the continent. This might have gotten into the heads of the players as well and they might have thought a draw will be a good result all things considered.
Now here’s something that might shock you, I thought South Africa played their best football in the Shakes Mashaba era. The first ten minutes or so were a bit cagey from the guys and they struggled to get into the Algerina half, but once they warmed up to the game they dominated. The passing was much more decisive, and we kept the ball more.
Dean Furman was the first one to give us a clear indication that Bafana can get a sniff at goal when he rattled the crossbar, and after that we had a couple of opportunities that I thought we should have done better with. This is why I felt that at half-time we should have at least been 2-0 up. That would have wrapped up the game.
That didn’t happen, but it was still a decent first half. Then in the second half we got an early goal through the boot of Thuso Phala, whom by the way I thought did not have the same impact as he has when he comes on from the bench. The goal was very well worked and the North Africans had no answer for the short passing that was displayed, leaving them wondering what just happened. A few minutes later they were again undone by the passing, and conceded a penalty, and somehow, someone decided that Tokelo Rantie would take it. This for me was the most shocking call since the tournament started. We have guys like Andile Jali, Oupa Manyisa, and Sibusiso Vilakazi who are proven penalty takers, and the latter two take penalties week in week out at their clubs. How none of them claimed that penalty from the word go is beyond me. I for one have never seen Rantie take a penalty, and he decided to take the most important one. Inevitably, he missed it, and that was probably the turning point of the match. The Desert Foxes were handed a lifeline. He scores that, we’re 2-0 up and we’ve killed the game. They were never going to come back. I felt that Shakes should have taken Tokelo out immediately after that, not because he’s a bad player or anything. Even the best of players miss penalties, but after missing it you are definitely not psychologically sound. The guy knows what some South Africans think of him and probably felt terrible. It would have played in his head over and over after that, making it difficult to play freely.
Having failed to bury the Algerians yet again, now the tables turned. I got a lot of stick for saying this after the game but I thought Darren Keet should take some blame in all of the three goals we conceded. The own goal by Thulani Hlatshwayo started it all. In my view, if a ball is played into the six-yard box, it’s the keeper’s ball. He should claim it. Thulani probably didn’t hear any call from the keeper and as a defender, the golden rule is that if there’s no call you go for the ball. So I don’t blame him. For the second goal I saw two things wrong. Firstly why was Manyisa at full-back? Where was Siyabonga Nhlapho? Manyisa was always going to come second in that confrontation with a proper winger. The second thing is that as a keeper you just can’t be beaten at the near post. It was some poor goalkeeping from the Belgium-based man. The obvious blunder was then in the last goal where I had flashbacks of Robert Green of England against the USA at the 2010 World Cup. This was inexperience at its worst and I hope now people understand why I was saying Itumeleng Khune needs to go there. Tried and tested.
Reneilwe Letsholonyane was also not available for that game due to suspension and Shakes might look to him and Bernard Parker to provide that much needed experience in the next one against Senegal. He will also have Mulomowandau Mathoho back and depending on how quicky Rivaldo Coetzee recovers from that injury that forced him off the pitch, the two will most likely be paired at centre-half. Shakes will know that three points against the Lions of Teranga is a must when they clash on Friday, and although a draw will still leave us with that outside chance of making it to the knockout stages, it would put massive strain on our hopes. The team will do well to also block out anything from South Africa, as this might put negative thoughts in camp. With the margin for error so slim going forward, the last thing we want is a squad that feels like the nation has given up on them.