Bafana hope for a miracle

The final countdown has started for Bafana Bafana as they take on Senegal in the last first-round fixture of the Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana on Thursday night with only a soccer miracle seemingly able to earn them a place in the quarterfinals.

More than likely, however, the game will herald the third successive first-round departure of South Africa from Africa’s premier competition—with only a series of uncanny eventualities all coming to fruition simultaneously able to save their bacon.

If Tunisia and Angola draw the other Group D fixture on Thursday, it would mean elimination from the tournament for Bafana Bafana no matter what they might achieve against Senegal.

Then, in the event of Angola losing against Tunisia, it would have to be by two goals or more, with Bafana simultaneously having to beat Senegal by at least a brace.

Senegal, meanwhile, are in the same precarious position as South Africa and will be in no mood to hand out any presents—particularly as their star-studded squad will be out to make amends for the deflating 3-1 defeat against Angola earlier in the tournament.

And to make matter worse for Bafana, if at all possible, Tshepo Masilela and Steven Pienaar are listed as doubtful starters because of injury and first-choice goalkeeper Rowen Fernandez is still nursing a pre-tournament hand injury after failing to make a single appearance in Ghana.

“We have not given up hope of qualifying for the quarterfinals,” is the not particularly reassuring message from Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira. And, in truth, what else could he say?

More to the point, Bafana will need to seek a self-respecting performance, if not victory, against the potentially lethal “Lions of Teranga” and solve some of the disquieting problems in attack and defence that have emerged in earlier matches—even if it will not finally help retain their Nations Cup challenge.

And this, presumably for the record only, would mean an unlikely quarterfinal against defending champions Egypt.—Sapa

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