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Cape Town - Another tsunami of criticism is angrily swirling around Bafana Bafana in the wake of yet another goalless, soulless performance.
There was much anticipation and expectation ahead of the national football team’s opening Africa Cup of Nations fixture against Cape Verde in Joburg on Saturday.
“Get behind Bafana” was the callow mantra bellowed from Limpopo to Lakeside in the fervent yet naive hope that head coach Gordon Igesund’s men could emulate the 1996 team and become African champions on home soil. Alas, in a dreary and dismal 0-0 draw with Cape Verde, Bafana quickly reinforced the negative perception of local football, and reduced that hope to doubt and despair.
The only positive is that all is not lost. The other two countries in Bafana’s group – Morocco and Angola – also played to a goalless stalemate on Saturday, leaving the contest for a place in the quarter-finals wide open.
Igesund and Bafana have an opportunity to restore confidence when they play Angola in Durban on Wednesday afternoon (kick-off 5pm). It is, in essence, a make-or-break fixture.
Bafana have not scored for three successive games – a 1-0 defeat to Norway and a 0-0 draw with Algeria in warm-up friendlies, culminating in the sluggish, soporific Saturday evening stroll with Cape Verde.
While their opponents deserve praise for a disciplined game plan and organised, cohesive defensive structure, most worrying about Bafana’s effort was the lack of enthusiasm and purpose. There they were on the biggest stage on the continent, the focus of the entire country, with the players in the shop window for prospective top European clubs, and they chose the occasion to deliver football absent of any creativity, energy or intelligence.
Bafana were technically and tactically inept, possession was generously squandered, hardly a scoring chance was fashioned, and the Cape Verde goalkeeper could have brought along his favourite rocking chair, such was the paucity of attempts on his goal.
The tricky, unpredictable Angolans are next up for Bafana, and Igesund will need all of his famous motivational skills to inspire his team – not only for them to play to their potential but, more critically, to realise the significance of the moment in the dressing room when they put on that South African jersey.
Because, right now, there is just so little pride in Bafana’s performances.