Cape Town – Bafana Bafana’s new hero Dean Furman was the toast of social media after his outstanding performance in South Africa’s 2-0 Africa Cup of Nations win over Angola.
Furman was right up there in the trending topics on Twitter, but wasn’t quite the most talked-about footballer on Wednesday night.
That honour belonged to Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard, who topped the list after a kick of a different kind.
The Belgium midfield wizard put his right boot into the ribs of a ballboy at Swansea after the kid refused to give him the ball to restart play during their League Cup semi-final.
It was interesting to see people’s reactions to what happened in Wales. Lots of people said Hazard must be banned for life, while others said the ball boy got what he deserved – a big blue mark on the side of his ribs.
However, opinions were not divided when it came to the performance of Cape Town-born Furman in his first start at the continental championships. And most people gave him all of the credit for the turnaround in the national team’s fortunes after a lackadaisical performance in the opening goalless draw against Cape Verde.
Nobody really knows if coach Gordon Igesund would have started the Oldham Athletic man if Kagisho Dikgacoi hadn’t injured his knee. But on Wednesday, he proved that he is South Africa’s premier holding midfielder.
Dikgacoi, or KG as the Crystal Palace man is affectionately known by his teammates, has been anchoring the South African midfield over the last few years, but he has looked out of sorts in the lead-up to Afcon. He was also poor against the Blue Sharks in the opening game.
What KG does well is to win the ball and disrupt opposition attacks. But he is just too slow in his movement and decision-making, often putting pressure on his teammates because he takes too long to pass the ball.
Furman showed his quality by always looking to put a teammate into space as soon as he won back the ball. His passes were also accurate, especially the one in the first half that Katlego Mphela failed to control.
When a defensive midfielder regularly breaks up attacks and distributes in that fashion, it allows the attacking players to play further forward. It also allows them to support the strikers and add more bodies in the box, thus also drawing defenders out of position.
And for the first time, we really saw May Mahlangu come alive, because he had a player next to him who kept the shape in midfield, and allowed him the freedom to express himself. He had many options when he had the ball at his feet, as the players in front of him were making runs into dangerous areas.
Reneilwe Letsholonyane also seemed to benefit because Furman was looking to pass the ball forward first and not slow the game down by passing sideways. “Yeye’s” 40-yard pass to Lehlohonolo Majoro for the second goal was one of the highlights of the match for me.
But credit must also go to Igesund, who opted for a more attacking line-up and dropped a few favourites.
It almost seems like this team was refreshed without some of the deadwood like Dikgacoi and Siphiwe Tshabalala preventing the fire from blazing. The youngsters can come of age in the rest of this tournament if Igesund allows them to express themselves on the park.
All of a sudden, the future of Bafana’s Afcon campaign doesn’t seem so dark, although there is still a hell of a long way to go before the South African football team get to the dawn. However, Wednesday’s performance against Angola, especially Furman’s contribution, was a good start.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
@Joey7Barton (Barton’s take on Eden Hazard kicking the ball-boy at Swansea): Hazard only crime is he hasn’t kicked him hard enough...
@themichaelowen (Owen puts the kick into perspective): So it transpires that last nights ball boy is 17 (hardly a kid) and tweeted beforehand that he was going to time waste during the game.
WHO TO FOLLOW
@theindyfootball: For all you English Premiership junkies out there.