Uphill battle for Bafana

Bafana Bafana now face an uphill battle to qualify for the 2010 African Nations Cup finals in Angola.

Speaking after their humiliating 1-0 defeat at the hands of Sierra Leone in an important Group Four qualifier at the National Stadium in Sierra Leone on Saturday night, stand-in captain Macbeth Sibaya pulled no punches.

The Russian-based midfield anchor—appointed captain for the first time in place of injured Blackburn Rovers defender Aaron Mokoena—admitted he was disappointed at the defeat.

Sibaya, who plays in Russia for Rubin Kazan, said: “It was a big setback. It means we are now set for an uphill battle to qualify for the finals in Angola. It is not going to be an easy road.
It means we have to win our remaining three matches in the qualifying campaign.”

Sibaya added Bafana had made it difficult for themselves with a return match against the Leone Stars at Atteridgeville’s Super Stadium on Saturday.

Bafana then host the Nigerian Super Eagles in September and end their qualifying programme with a difficult away trip to Equatorial Guinea in October.

It was Sierra Leone’s first win in the qualifiers and keeps them in with a chance of qualifying for Angola. Both Bafana and the Leone Stars are on three points with three matches to play.

Three points from a possible nine is a poor start for new coach Joel Santana, who could be out of his R1,5-million-a-month coaching job if Bafana do not reach Angola. His bosses at the South African Football Association made it clear when he replaced fellow Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira last month that qualifying for the 2010 showpiece in Angola was a priority.

But Santana, while disappointed, said he felt his side had played well.

“It goes like this sometimes in football when a side controls the game and then ends up losing.”

Santana said Bafana need to win their remaining three matches to ensure qualification in Angola.

Said the Bafana coach: “We played well in the first half but we were not playing at 100%. But we got better after half-time and should have scored four goals. We had two shots cleared off the goal line. I am disappointed that having 70% of the game we ended up losing.”

Bafana were beaten by themselves after the home side were gifted a penalty in the 22nd minute by full back Bryce Moon. The young Ajax Cape Town right-back suffered a rush of blood to the head when he lost the ball and could not complain when referee Parre Lassina awarded a spot kick after be fouled Samuel Barley inside the penalty area. Sierra Leone captain Mohammed Kallon netted the only goal of the disappointing game.

Santana accepted the penalty was a fair decision, but added: “It was a needless penalty to give away.”

But that penalty could come back to haunt Bafana should they fail to qualify for the Angolan tournament jut six months before the biggest soccer show of all—the 2010 World Cup finals in Johannesburg in June.

Bafana arrived back in Johannesburg on Sunday. They will regroup on Monday night and begin training on Tuesday for the return clash against Sierra Leone where another defeat is unthinkable. - Sapa

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