Time is not on Gordon Igesund’s side.
The national football coach insists his players are not a team yet, but the pressure on him to deliver will not relent.
Wednesday night’s 1-0 loss to Zambia in the Nelson Mandela Challenge will be relegated to a footnote in history if Bafana Bafana somehow find glory at the African Nations Cup.
Sadly though, that doesn’t look likely as Igesund, who suffered a first loss to African opposition, lamented a lack of creativity in midfield. But, it’s hard to see how he will incorporate more attacking prowess without sacrificing either Dean Furman or Kigasho Dikgacoi.
Though the English-based duo have impressed in shoring up the midfield, they have come at a cost. Bafana produced precious little going forward against Chipolopolo, and the likes of Tokelo Rantie (while he was on), Bernard Parker and Sifiso Myeni were left to feed off scraps.
In two months, against the organised defences of Morocco and Angola especially, Igesund will have to find a key to unlock the goals.
Lerato Chabangu has slipped down several notches from the glittering form of August and September, while Teko Modise’s designs on a return to the role of chief assassin are not being helped by playing for a club in crisis.
Igesund is desperate for good news and the smile and twinkle in the eye that characterised his arrival at the helm has been replaced by weary sighs and an insight into why so many have come and gone before him.
Norway and Ethiopia will give him one last chance to mould his men into a unit that will seek to restore national pride. On the evidence of Wednesday night, perhaps the nation should be praying alongside him that the likes of Dino Ndlovu, Thulani Serero and Katlego Mphela heal in time for consideration.
Without fresh ideas, the current crop looks doomed.
Igesund looks to be torn between playing a system that incorporates his promising wing-backs or the Kaizer Chiefs style of short, sharp passes with runners arriving late in the box from midfield.
At the moment, his team is playing a bit of both and not getting very far. Against Zambia, there were no clear chances created, to the groans of a worried crowd. Soon, and very soon, Igesund will have to make up his mind and pick the players he deems fit to carry out his instructions.
At club level, his best teams never won with panache. And yet, after years of mediocrity, the nation will be so desperate for some cheer from Bafana that they will happily take the ugliest wins.
But first, they need to find someone who knows his way to goal. – Sunday Tribune