JOHANNESBURG – SA Football Association president Danny Jordaan says qualifying for big tournaments will be among the chief concerns for national teams over the next season.
First up, Bafana Bafana play Nigeria away in an Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier on June 10. Recently-appointed Bafana coach Stuart Baxter will have to ready his troops for the key clash without the luxury of time on his side. Jordan recognised that Baxter will have the odds stacked against him in his first game in charge.
“The coach has recently announced his team and this is the first big test for him,” said Jordaan. “I remember when Gordon Igesund was appointed; his first task was against Brazil away in Sao Paolo. It was a huge challenge for him even though the team played well and lost 1-0.
“Looking back at the last three matches, we did well against Nigeria and I think we have a good chance against them. I think the psychological issues around playing against Nigeria are gone now. Most of the Bafana Bafana players that have been selected have played against Nigeria on multiple occasions.”
It will then be on to the small matter of qualifying for the World Cup, a feat no Bafana team has achieved since the 2002 edition excluding their automatic qualification as hosts of the 2010 World Cup.
“Then, of course, the big test is towards the end of the year, qualification for the World Cup in Russia. Again, we have four points with two matches against Cape Verde home and away and a home match against Burkina Faso still to take place.
“I think if we can get through those three matches then the last away match to Senegal in Dakar shouldn’t be as difficult. So it is indeed a daunting task and quite a demanding period for Bafana Bafana.”
While qualifying for the 2018 World Cup could prove a daunting task, Jordaan said the following edition in 2022 should be non-negotiable for South Africa.
“Ultimately what we are saying about Vision 2022 is that 2022 is a World Cup year and we said by then, we must have a team that qualifies for the World Cup and takes us to the final round of the World Cup and therefore, our teams must start not only qualifying for major tournaments but make an impact. We have been to the Under-17 World Cup, Under-20 World Cup and the Olympics in Rio.
“However, mere qualification and participation are not where Vision 2022 ends. We want to be a serious player at the events and go to the final stages. That is the final objective of Vision 2022."