Bafana Bafana is negotiating to tour South America in June to feature in a three-match series that is calculated to improve the country’s world rankings ahead of the draw for the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil.
The South Africans intend to face Peru, Costa Rica and possibly Ecuador.
“We have improved from being ranked 86th at the start of my tenure to an impressive 39th,” said national coach Pitso Mosimane, who took over from Brazilian Carlos Alberto Parreira in July last year after the World Cup in South Africa.
On May 18, when South Africans will be going to the polls to vote in the local government elections, Mosimane’s attention will be focused instead on Fifa headquarters in faraway Zurich.
That day the latest Fifa rankings will be released and Mosimane will be anxious to know whether or not Bafana Bafana has climbed higher.
A sensational last-gasp 1-0 victory over Egypt during a nail-biting African Nations Cup qualifier in March helped Bafana Bafana’s ranking jump from 46th to 39th in the world, and fifth in Africa. Mosimane wants to see that improve further, at least to number one in Africa.
“It is a known fact that when a draw for the World Cup qualifiers is conducted, the top-ranked countries avoid one another due to a seeding system. In July I will attend the draw for the 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifiers. Now we need to attain a top ranking prior to the draw so that when the seeding system is implemented we should be in a position to avoid being drawn in what could be classified as a ‘group of death’.”
The countries that enjoy higher rankings than South Africa are Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Ghana. Although Bafana Bafana have already beaten both Ghana and Egypt, it could be tantamount to stepping on a banana skin to be in the same group as either of them, as well as Cameroon, Nigeria or Senegal.
And that is why Saturday night’s clash against Tanzania in Dar es Salaam is of vital importance. South Africa has to face teams like the Taifa Stars if Mosimane is to achieve his ambition of seeing Bafana Bafana in the number one spot in Africa before 2014. He has selected eight uncapped players for the clash. Even though his hand has been forced by clubs like Ajax Cape Town, which refused to release some of its players, it is nonetheless an ideal opportunity to field players such as Eric Mathoho, Prince Hlela, Hlompho Kekana and Siyanda Xulu.
“We need to create a larger pool of players,” said Mosimane. “First, it helps create a healthy competition among the players. And second, you cannot expect to introduce players like [Mulomowandau] Mathoho to international football by throwing them in against Nigeria, Cameroon or even England, for that matter.
“Meaning no disrespect to Tanzania, but it is such games where we are able to throw them in to let us see how they cope with the pressure of playing in a hostile environment in front of 60000 spectators away from the home comfort.”
Mosimane was also forced to field a right fullback — Siboniso Gaxa — in an unfamiliar left fullback position because his regular, Tshepo Masilela, is unavailable.
But Mosimane is nevertheless looking forward to Saturday’s clash.
“We want to attain the position as the top-ranked country in Africa,” he said. “We want to conquer the continent and I know that to achieve this goal we must play and beat countries like Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire, the latter with or without Didier Drogba. And when we do that, we do not want to hear excuses that Drogba or Salomon Kalou was absent.
“Our ultimate aim is to retain the position as the top dogs in Africa and then qualify and reach the top four positions in the 2012 African Nations Cup, which should prepare us for the 2013 edition and, finally, qualification for the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil.”
Mosimane’s crystal clear vision means Bafana Bafana cannot afford to falter against Tanzania at the Dar es Salaam national stadium on Saturday.