CAPE TOWN – It was clinical, and it was ruthless and brutal in its efficiency.
Finally, when confronted by an easy opponent, Bafana Bafana simply came out and did the business in comfortably dispatching of Seychelles 6-0 in a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday. Too often in the past, the SA national football team has been hampered by complacency in such fixtures.
This time, armed with an intelligent, old-fashioned game plan, carried out to the letter by a squad with the right attitude and mental focus, the goals flowed. Coach Stuart Baxter and his staff had clearly done their homework in highlighting an aerial weakness in the Seychelles defence. As such, Bafana bombarded the opposition with crosses and the game plan worked a treat.
But, as impressive as the win was, let’s not get carried away.
Seychelles, to be frank, is one of the worst national sides I have seen in a long time. They offered absolutely nothing. Their defensive structure was poor, they couldn’t string passes together and they lacked the necessary ability to compete at this level. In short, they were completely out of their depth.
But for the fact that Bafana, at times, took the foot off the pedal, and a brilliant, heroic display from Seychelles goalkeeper Romeo Barra, the result could well have reached rugby score proportions. There will be bigger challenges for Bafana in the future and it’s important that this victory doesn’t allow the players to sink into complacency mode again. Enjoy the win, but accept it for what it is: just routine, against an opponent that would probably be beaten by a Second Division side in South Africa.
Let’s talk about Lebo.
Wow. As far as I’m concerned, Bafana may finally have found the striker they have been searching for in 22-year-old Lebogang Mothiba. The country’s best years in international football have always come during times when there is a striker who can act as the focal point of the team: like Benni McCarthy, Chippa Masinga and Shaun Bartlett.
Mothiba still has a long way to go to emulate those names, but he has made a great start to his Bafana career. He’s certainly got all the attributes: lithe, athletic and strong, superb touch and awareness, and an instinctive eye for goal. He demonstrated his finishing ability in netting Bafana’s third goal on Saturday - a shift of the body, a shift of the feet, and the ball was buried in the top corner of the net.
His hold-up play to bring teammates into play was impressive - and, towards the end, his back-to-the-wall pass to set up Percy Tau’s goal was just super-impressive. Mothiba was in the Mamelodi Sundowns and Diambars academies before moving to France. Initially with Lille, he is now at Strasbourg, where he has been banging in goals with regularity.
Attendances at Bafana games, though, continue to be a cause for concern.
Again, despite the national team’s imposing performance and victory, it was achieved in front of an almost empty stadium. So what’s the problem? Is it that people still have a deep feeling of ennui when it comes to Bafana, and the passion and excitement have gone? Or is it that, in this country, when it comes to football, the love for club is still far greater than love for country?
Could it be the disillusionment with bungling Safa that is at the root of the issue? Or do Bafana games have to be taken to provinces where people are far more accepting of the national team?
Those are but a few questions ... But, whatever the reason, there is no doubt the sport’s officialdom will have to address it, quickly.