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Durban – Bafana Bafana supporters would have been forgiven for waking up on Thursday morning, feeling the raking hot Durban sun and ocean breeze on their faces, and wondering if they weren’t still locked in some kind of daydream.
Could it be that South Africa, at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Wednesday night, had finally unleashed some competitive continental fire, leaving Angola trailing in their wake?
South Africa’s failure over the last few years has been almost as constant as the waves that roll in off the Indian Ocean in these balmy lands. But on Wednesday, a sleeping dog woke up and took a bite out of it’s Southern African neighbour, with Bafana’s certain place in the last eight suddenly a point’s breadth away.
A draw with Morocco here on Sunday will assure Bafana of a spot in the quarter-finals, though even in defeat, they will go through if Cape Verde fail to beat Angola in Port Elizabeth. But victory over a Morocco side that have hardly impressed thus far will be on most Bafana minds, after Angola were so passionately vanquished, in front of a fervent, festive Durban crowd.
Can the Atlas Lions stand up to a similar performance, in a similar atmosphere?
And to add incentive for Bafana, in their much-loved Durban, if they can top their group, they will stay here – potentially right up to the semi-finals.
Gordon Igesund has earned praise at this point, for revitalising his side after a dreadful performance in the opening goalless draw with Cape Verde. Igesund tore apart his starting XI, and the move paid dividends – the new-look Bafana finding the spirit that reminded some who could remember the class of 1996.
If one man embodied the new Bafana on Wednesday night, it was midfielder Dean Furman.
From the off, Furman added a lightning bolt buzz to the Bafana side, a constant surge of energy in front of his back four.
“It was good to have someone like Dean, who won every ball and gave us that spirit to believe,” acknowledged striker Katlego Mphela, who himself fought like a terrier for every ball in attack.
The 24 year-old Oldham Athletic midfielder, playing in his first competitive game for Bafana, picked up the Man of the Match award, and was delighted with the way Bafana had played.
“We knew after the first game we had to get the win and score goals, and I think the performance was outstanding. We were defensively solid, we nullified their threat and our attacking play was brilliant.
“We could have had more than two goals. It is a great feeling to get the three points,” said Furman, who could not get enough of the spirit inside the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
“It was a great game to be involved in … the atmosphere in the crowd was amazing,” he said.
“When the goals went in, the feeling from the fans and the noise was incredible. It put an extra spring in our step and we were delighted we gave them a good win to celebrate.”
As for his own performance, breaking up Angolan attacks and launching his own side into the opposition half, is a position he is used to playing.
“The coach told me to be disciplined. It is a role I have played many times before and I enjoyed playing it,” said Furman.
“It allows other players to get forward and some of our attacking play was outstanding today.”
None was more outstanding than Bafana’s second goal, Lehlohonolo Majoro storming clear of the Angolan defence, and cutting back from the byline before sneaking a shot through Lama’s legs, to effectively kill off the game.
“I saw an opportunity because it was one-on-one,” said Majoro, who will miss Bafana’s next two game with a deep gash in his calf.
“Inside the box, I was hoping to beat the defender so my teammates could come and I could lay the ball off to them.
“Then I saw that everyone in the box was man-marked, so I thought I would take a chance at the near post and it went in.
“I am very happy. As a striker, when you score goals, you gain confidence. We didn’t manage to win the first game, so the second was important because we really want to qualify, to go far in this tournament.
“When I finally scored, we got a chance to relax, because anything could have happened with the score at 1-0.”
Anything could happen, too, in Bafana’s game against Morocco, with Igesund now having to keep his players composed, as they aim to seal their place in the last eight.
But the hopes of the nation has risen from the ashes, a feeling, suddenly, that anything is possible.
DEAN FURMAN PROFILE
Born: June 22, 1988
Place of Birth: Cape Town
Club: Oldham Athletic
Previous clubs: Rangers (2008-2009), Bradford City, loan (2009)
Youth career: Chelsea (2003-2006), Glasgow Rangers (2006-2008)
National team caps: Five
Goals: None – The Star