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Bafana Bafana’s Job is Only Half Done.

The glass is half full for Bafana Bafana despite their failure, amid dubious officiating, to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar next year. However, Hugo Broos is only halfway to implementing his Bafana Bafana vision.

The glass is half full for Bafana Bafana despite their failure, amid dubious officiating, to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar next year. However, Hugo Broos is only halfway to implementing his Bafana Bafana vision.

The most difficult part of the job — identifying players who could form the foundation of a team to conquer Africa over the next five years — has been done.

However, although Bafana Bafana deserved better than to be eliminated on goals scored in dodgy circumstances, they did not have the hallmarks of a team that could emulate the best African showings at World Cup tournaments.

Game-by-game review

The only match throughout qualifying in which Bafana Bafana looked capable of taking on the best teams in the world was the 1-0 win over Ghana in Johannesburg. They were unfortunate not to score more, as even in that game, a shocking offside call was made which ultimately came back to haunt them.

Other than that, there was the unfortunate away defeat to Ghana — a poor performance from the visitors — as well as two unspectacular wins over Ethiopia and one over Zimbabwe, in addition to a disappointing draw against the Warriors at the beginning of the campaign.

South Africa did not get the rub of the green when it came to officials and there is a small possibility we might yet hear more about that, with SAFA calling for match-fixing investigations.

However, Ghana and Zimbabwe were not at their strongest in terms of available personnel at key points in the qualifying tournament and this should also be factored into the equation. In fairness, Ghana also had the added advantage of playing an away fixture against Ethiopia on neutral ground in Johannesburg.

The verdict

On balance, South Africa deserved better than they got out of the World Cup qualifying tournament. They were ruthlessly effective even when not spectacular up until the last fateful night of their qualifying campaign. However, this team is not yet the finished product.

Hugo Broos has made no secret of his desire to dominate Africa and Bafana Bafana has the potential to be Africa’s best team and a strong presence in the knockout stages of the FIFA World Cup by 2026. 

Perhaps, at the very least, the young squad will now learn a valuable lesson on bouncing back from setbacks. This one may prove to be a blessing in disguise.

Players left with homework to do

These World Cup qualifiers saw chances handed to fresh-faced local players such as Ethan Brooks, Terrence Mashego, Tshegofatso Mabasa, Yusuf Maart, Bongokuhle Hlongwane, and Evidence Makgopa.

Hlongwane was a resounding success and Mabasa hugely disappointing, but many young players were hit and miss. Brooks is a prime example, having played superbly in the win over Ghana, but been at sea in the reverse fixture.

Broos has said that he views it as his responsibility to give young players time to grow into their shoes. The likes of Brooks and Mabasa must be made to feel they can still contribute to Bafana Bafana even after some disappointing performances.

Mabasa, to be fair, is now 25 years old but has not had much time to play for the national team, he could be useful in the future if he shakes off his injury woes. Brooks, who is not yet 20, could be one of the key players in years to come.

For the likes of Brooks, Hlongwane, and Makgopa (who missed the last game through injury), training and playing alongside Percy Tau and Keagan Dolly will likely help them grow into better players. It is worth pointing out that even Tau took a while to get going against Ghana and inexperienced players should not be left to shoulder all of the blame.

Aside from Hlongwane, other outstanding players for Bafana in qualifying were Terrence Mashego and Teboho Mokoena. If heads are not turning in Europe at the sight of a new generation of hungry, talented South African players, then they will soon should the national team continue its upward trajectory.

Leonard Solms is a sports journalist who features regularly on various local and international platforms including ESPN, New Frame, FARPost, Tagged Online and Careers Magazine, as well as this one. He enjoys the occasional bet and the most important tip he can give you is to bet within your means.

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