Johannesburg - On Monday night in Curitiba, the two coaches linked with the Bafana Bafana job, Carlos Queiroz and Stephen Keshi, could not be separated as their countries played to a goalless draw – the first scoreless stalemate in a goal-laden Brazil World Cup.
Keshi’s Nigeria threw caution to the wind, launching wave after wave of attacks before they ran out of ideas on how to find a chink in the Iranian armour. Queiroz’s Iranians stood firm to collect a point against the more fancied Super Eagles, who knew the clash against the Asians was their best chance of getting three points in the group.
The clash sort of gave us South Africans an idea of how, if one of them is appointed Bafana Bafana coach next month, the team will play in future.
And here’s how I think Bafana will play if one of them is picked, based on what I saw in the clash as well as some of their previous matches.
If Safa pick Queiroz …
Queiroz has bristled at suggestions in recent days that his team are negative but they did what they do best – keep a clean sheet. They arrived at the World Cup with more of that than any other qualifier, but their opponents were not as strong as the ones they are drawn with at the World Cup.
Iran were dogged in their display against the Super Eagles and this is how Queiroz likes to play – organised defence and then try to catch teams on the counter attack. When Queiroz was in charge of the Portuguese national team during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the Europeans, who conceded four goals just the other day against Germany in Brazil, were very tight at the back. Portugal did not concede a goal in a group with Brazil, Ivory Coast and North Korea, and the Cristiano Ronaldo-led side went on to score seven goals in their three matches in the round robin phase.
Queiroz’s teams often absorb pressure well and catch the opposition on the counter, as was the case when Iran played Nigeria and this is how he could play if appointed coach of Bafana.
The big problem in South Africa, though, is that strikers do not convert most of their chances, so this is something Queiroz will have to work on constantly to ensure Bafana are not only tight at the back, but lethal upfront too.
Tokelo Rantie is a talented striker and is probably our brightest marksman for the future, but often lacks composure. Veteran striker Katlego Mphela showed good form towards the end of the season with Kaizer Chiefs, and should he pick up from where he left off, Queiroz may give the 29-year-old marksman a chance to wear the Bafana shirt and chase Benni McCarthy’s scoring record for the national team. There’s Bernard Parker to rely on as well. He has been our main source of goals for the last two years after all and Queiroz is likely to have him in his squad.
If Safa pick Keshi …
Nigeria had scored fewer goals than everyone else going into the World Cup, so the clash against Iran hardly had the hallmarks of a classic. The Super Eagles were good to watch going forward in the early stages of the game, but after a while it became clear the Africans did not have a plan B to open up a stubborn Iran defence.
Keshi is a big fan of attacking football, hence Nigeria have often been found wanting in defence, conceding soft goals. They kept a clean sheet against Iran, but they were not tested, as goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama had to make only one good save. The man known as “big boss” would have to make sure Bafana are tight at the back while playing the kind of enterprising football he enjoys.
Keshi has built a strong team over the last two years to rekindle the glory days of Nigerian football, using many players to ensure the Super Eagles keep getting positive results. Previous Bafana coach Gordon Igesund, meanwhile, usually went with the tried and tested who had failed the nation on countless occasions and was not willing to make too many changes. Keshi, however, is not afraid to make changes to his squad when he needs to and it has worked well for him. With Keshi, we will probably have an even bigger pool of players for the national team.
* Follow Tshepang on Twitter @T_Mailwane