2013 was magnificent year - Igesund

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Gordon Igesund says he feels proud of what Bafana Bafana have managed to achieve over the last 12 months. Photo: Duif du Toit

Johannesburg - Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund says he feels proud of what Bafana Bafana have managed to achieve over the last 12 months, and looks forward to leading the national side in 2014.

“I keep hearing the same thing, ‘not qualifying, not qualifying’,” Igesund said of the year that was.

“A lot of that was out of my hands. From a personal point-of-view, we’ve had a magnificent year. A lot of things have changed in the last year, the team is playing a great brand of football that people are enjoying.

“To keep talking about not qualifying for the World Cup - I came in under very difficult circumstances, we were behind.”

It was a year of ups and downs for the senior national team, having gone from a mediocre Africa Cup of Nations campaign, to failing to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, and then beating the world’s best team two months later.

Bafana Bafana got the year off to a solid start, kicking-off their 2013 Africa Cup of Nations campaign, - hosted by South Africa for a second time - with a goalless draw against Cape Verde, before following it up with a win over Angola and a 2-2 draw with Morocco to book their place in the quarterfinals.

That was as far as they got, however, bowing out to Mali on penalties, after the teams ended in a 1-1 draw after 120 minutes.

Fast-forward to June, where veteran striker Benni McCarthy announced his retirement from soccer after a glittering career in which he became Bafana’s highest goal-scorer with 32 goals from his 80 matches.

Later that month, South Africa’s 2014 World Cup qualifying dream suffered a decisive setback when they were downed 2-1 by Ethiopia.

Bafana needed at least a point from that match to remain on course for Brazil 2014, but Bernard Parker’s own-goal capped a disappointing afternoon for the national outfit.

South Africa, however, were handed a lifeline by Fifa, following an investigation which established Ethiopia had used an ineligible player in their match against Botswana, in an earlier qualifier.

The Ethiopians were subsequently docked three points, a move which also gave Botswana a second chance to make it to the World Cup playoffs.

The permutations were simple for Bafana in their final qualification match on September 7 - beat Botswana to qualify and hope the Central Africa Republic (CAR) win against Ethiopia.

Igesund’s troops came out guns blazing, routing their southern African counterparts 4-1, with Parker redeeming his embarrassing own-goal three months prior, with a stunning brace in Durban.

But Parker’s heroics counted for nought, following a 2-1 win for the Ethiopians, condemning Igesund’s side to non-participation in the Brazil spectacle in June next year.

Four days after learning their fate and confirming their exit from the race for a World Cup spot, Bafana lost to neighbouring Zimbabwe in an international friendly at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto.

Away from the field, Danny Jordaan was elected as the new SA Football Association (Safa) president at the organisation’s elective congress in Johannesburg in late September.

He beat Mandla “Shoes” Mazibuko to the top spot and replaced outgoing president Kirsten Nematandani.

A month after their disappointing loss to Zimbabwe, in the second of four consecutive friendlies, Igesund’s men played-out to an entertaining 1-1 draw with Morocco in Agadir, 508km south of Casablanca.

Bafana followed up that result with a 3-0 demolition of Swaziland in Mbabane, where Igesund opted for locally-based players with a view to January 2014's African Nations Championship (Chan) which excludes players plying their trade outside of their home countries.

The highlight of the year for the men's senior national team came on November 19, when South Africa sent shockwaves through the soccer world, beating current World and European Champions Spain 1-0 at FNB Stadium, in Johannesburg, with La Roja fielding no fewer than nine members of their 2010 World Cup-winning squad.

November would also highlight the short-comings in South African soccer, after Fifa secretary-general Jerome Valcke announced the world soccer body would investigate allegations of match-fixing involving four of South Africa's pre-2010 World Cup warm-up matches.

Almost a year after the allegations of match-fixing first surfaced resulting in the temporary suspension of several Safa employees in December 2012, including then-president Kirsten Nematandani and newly-promoted CEO Dennis Mumble - Fifa confirmed they would step in.

Bafana skipper Itumeleng Khune was duly rewarded for some stellar performances both for club and country when he was named South African Sports Star of the Year, at November’s SA Sports Awards.

The country tasted its most notable success courtesy of the national under-20 outfit, who lifted the Cosafa Youth Championships trophy for a fifth time, beating Kenya 2-0 in the final midway through December.

Sapa


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