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A bumpy road for Bafana Bafana

The South African national coach’s final preparations before the Nations Cup next year in Tunisia have been dealt a heavy blow.

Bafana Bafana were handed their first ever defeat under Mashaba on Saturday against Egypt before succumbing to the hosts of the Nations Cup Tunisia on Wednesday. Bafana Bafana’s unbeaten record came to an abrupt end as they trekked to North Africa — opponents South Africa have always underestimated.

Mashaba now has the tedious task of having to select 22 players who are also in need of a morale boost if they are to try and recapture the Nations Cup trophy. The recent adventure into the north has been a good wake up call to both the players and coach that South Africa is far from invincible.

The problems for Mashaba will not stop here. After selecting these 22 players he will need to find time to prepare them. This is being made even more difficult with the European League reaching its crucial stages and Champions League putting pressure on some South African players to stay at their overseas clubs.

For South Africa to recapture the trophy they won in 1996 a miracle needs to happen. The players Mashaba has selected for all his preparations games have not delivered much. Bafana Bafana has not shown any hunger to win the Nations Cup.

African countries participating in this tournament are fiercely patriotic to their nations ‒ more so than their clubs. In contrast, South African players prefer their clubs to their country, often as a result of the lure of money from Europe’s wealthy clubs. The threat that players attending the Nations Cup could lose their overseas club places does not bode well. Bafana Bafana has already experienced their first casualty, with striker Shaun Bartlett withdrawing from the national team.

Now, once more, the South African football association and Mashaba will need to go all over the world with their begging bowl to get the best available players to the Nations Cup if South Africa is truly to make some challenge for the title.

Since the end of Clive Barker’s reign as national team coach, South Africa has been dipping in Africa’s rankings from first place in 1996, second in 1998, third in 2000 and in 2002 fourth. For Mashaba to restore Bafana Bafana to their former greatness he will need to get his 22 players to play as a team and, quite simply, be more patriotic.

The coach’s likely 22 players for the 2004 Nations cup will be:

Goalkeepers: Andre Arendse because of his experience despite being susceptible to corner kicks and free kicks. Moeneeb Josephs and Emile Baron could be options for the future ‒ although Baron but has not yet proved himself to be in the starting line up.

Defenders: Mbulelo Mabizela, Thabang Molefe, David Kannemeyer, Jacob Lekgetho, Aaron Mokoena, Sphiwe Mkhonza, Jimmy Tau and Tony Coyle to complement the rainbow nation and keep the political powers at bay.

Midfielders: Here Bafana Bafana are spoilt for choice in Benson Mhlongo, Steven Pienaar, Jabu Pule, Delron Buckley, Japhet Zwane, Tebogo Mokoena and McBeth Sibaya.

Strikers: Last but not least, these will undoubtedly be Siyabonga Nomvete, Benedict McCarthy, Sibusiso Zuma and Patrick Mayo.

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