The quest to bring out the best

Shakes Mashaba was right when he said the best team lost, but that is just too often the case with South Africa in major competition.

The Bafana Bafana coach was quick to claim tactical superiority after a disappointing start for his team at the Africa Nations Cup in Equatorial Guinea. It leaves them with a mammoth task of grabbing two victories in successive matches against formidable West African opposition to achieve their objective of a next-round place.

Although they might have made many sit up in admiration with their performance, the cold reality is that the team’s continued participation is in real peril. South Africa again proved that they know how to play but it is the act of winning that is still a sought-after competence.

Bad luck played a major part in Monday’s reversal against top-ranked Algeria at the start of their tournament but there was also the customary slip of concentration and tactical naivety that keep the team from achieving its full potential.

A missed penalty is most unfortunate and properly put down to bad luck. But the manner in which it was taken illustrates South Africa are not as well planned as they should be at this level.


According to the coaching staff, Tokelo Rantie is one of three players delegated to take penalties in what seems more of a random afterthought than a vital detail. The way that captain Dean Furman explained it afterwards, there was no designated kicker – it was up to whoever wanted to take it.

“TK went up to take it. He is our lead striker so it is not as if it was something unusual. It is unfortunate that he hit the crossbar. These things happen in soccer.”

Haphazard kick
Indeed they do and Rantie should carry no blame. But the haphazard way in which the kick was taken leaves the impression that taking care of all of the finer aspects of planning for such a game is not a priority for the technical team.

Then there is a lack of variety in approach and an inability to switch mode when the game calls for it.

“After we missed the penalty, we did not keep possession like we normally do,” said Thabo Senong, one of the assistant coaches. “We showed signs of anxiety and a lack of confidence. We gave the ball to the opposition. This is a problem with African players.”

That generalisation is patently not true, as the tournament’s first week has already evidenced. The likes of Algeria, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire – all Africans – have kept their wits about them, coming from positions of adversity to take points in their opening games.

South Africa’s coaching staff, by their own admission, also missed the key switch in the Algerian approach after the penalty.

Their coach, Christian Gourcuff, brought on two strikers in rapid succession and, most importantly, switched Yacine Brahimi to the left, from where Algeria’s second goal came with worrying ease. “We reacted late after they had got the second goal,” Senong said.

Three changes
Bafana could make at least three changes for Friday’s match against Senegal, which will spell elimination if they lose.

Mulomowandau Mathoho will return in defence, replacing the injured Rivaldo Coetzee, and Reneilwe Letsholonyane will be added to the midfield, which faces a tough evening against a side that was very impressive in the qualifiers and that displayed the requisite patience and mental application to come from behind and beat Ghana in their opening game.

South Africa hope to find the opposition defenders ponderous and get behind them in the same way they created several good chances against Algeria.

“They might be physically stronger than us, but that is no advantage for them,” said Thuso Phala, who scored Bafana’s goal on Monday. “Their physical aspect might be an advantage but we have a way of playing around them. We are quicker and have more agility.

“We showed against Mali how we can deal with big strong players. We played them off the field,” said Phala, referring to an impressive 3-0 win over Mali in Libreville, Gabon, in Bafana’s last warm-up game before they arrived in Equatorial Guinea.

After Senegal on Friday night, South Africa must also get past Ghana in their last group game on Tuesday.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Premier League’s opening madness may well shatter our preconceptions

Thanks to several unique circumstances, this season will likely confound everyone, from pundits to economists

Expect no charity from football’s elite

We should let go of the hope that our favourite clubs are going to act altruistically in English football’s looming financial crisis

Q&A Sessions: ‘Each generation must open doors for the next’ — Desiree Ellis

Desiree Ellis has a deep understanding of the development of women’s football in South Africa. The Banyana Banyana head coach talks to Luke Feltham about how the women’s game has changed over her 40-year career

Cartoon: A Messi affair in the Barcelona house

An untidy board room has prompted a transfer request from the little man

Top European clubs circle as Messi calls time at Barcelona

The Argentine legend has fallen out with the Catalan club's hierarchy, which has alerted a number of sides in world football

Why do presidents cling to power?

Four former heads of state speak about what being president is actually like
Advertising

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Vitamin therapy is for drips

It may be marketed by influencers, but intravenous vitamin therapy is not necessary and probably not worth the hype, experts say

Facebook, Instagram indiscriminately flag #EndSars posts as fake news

Fact-checking is appropriate but the platforms’ scattershot approach has resulted in genuine information and messages about Nigerians’ protest against police brutality being silenced

Murder of anti-mining activist emboldens KZN community

Mam’Ntshangase was described as a fierce critic of mining and ambassador for land rights.

Unite with Nigeria’s ‘Speak Up’ generation protesting against police brutality

Photos of citizens draped in the bloodied flag have spread around the world in the month the country should be celebrating 60 years of independence
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday