A little over three months before they play their opening World Cup qualifiers, Bafana Bafana still looked unconvincing in front of goal as they battled to a draw against a largely weakened Senegal side.
Pitso Mosimane’s team lost respect following last year’s chaotic misreading of the Caf rules which saw them miss out of the Africa Cup of Nations, and results such as this will not make South Africans to hold them in high esteem.
In fact, howls of frustration could be heard with every misplaced pass or poor effort from Bafana although, to their credit, the Durban crowd were generally good-nurtured towards the national team.
But Mosimane’s regime will become even more embattled given that he heads into the Brazil 2014 World Cup qualifiers in the winter on the back of a poor run of form which has seen Bafana fail to win any of their previous five official games.
The situation is not ideal, and a handful of fans let Mosimane know how they feel by heckling him after he had concluded his post-match television interview. He can expect an even rougher ride in the next three months, with some South Africans clearly unconvinced that he can lead the team to new heights.
That Bafana had, on four previous occasions, failed to beat Senegal always meant winning here was always going to be a tall order, but the fact that the Teranga Lions arrived in the KwaZulu Natal capital with effectively their second XI will mean Mosimane doesn’t escape criticism.
Those who want him out of the Bafana job will point out that Senegal lost all three of their Nations Cup matches; that the west Africans were without 10 of their top players who were at the continental final, including Newcastle United’s Demba Ba and Demba Cisse.
But harbouring a belief that Senegal were here for the taking would simply be shallow. As they showed throughout this friendly international, they were hugely competent and crucially, played not to win.
Bafana, on the other hand, could not be accused of not trying. Refreshingly, Mosimane threw caution to the wind, fielding a single defensive midfielder in Kagisho Dikgacoi and boldly handing Edward Manqele his debut to operate alongside Katlego Mphela and Thulani Serero in attack.
The idea was to stage an ambush during attacks, with support coming through from May Mahlangu and Steven Pienaar from either flank. Alas, the plan didn’t always work, although Bafana did create a handful of chances amid tight marking from Senegal, who preferred to use Ndiaye Ndiaye as lone striker and pack the defence and midfield.
If Bafana are to win international matches, they will have to learn to take even a half chance, but here, Mahlangu blew the most clear-cut one after just nine minutes.
Sent through by Pienaar, the Sweden-based midfielder failed to score when faced with Senegal goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul, although to his excuse, Mahlangu was put off by a covering defender.
There were also chances for Mphela and substitute Teko Modise in the second half, and both were not utilised, highlighting precisely the goalscoring crisis plaguing Bafana.
Mphela should have scored with a diving header after being set up by Anele Ngcongca but the striker directed the ball straight at Coundoul, while Modise sent a tame shot into the hands of the Senegal ‘keeper right at the death. No coach can ever be held liable for such schoolboy errors.
A 0-0 draw once had Bafana players dancing, only to painfully discover they hadn’t made it to the Afcon. It certainly is a result that can’t take them to Brazil in 2014. – The Star