Bafana Bafana rookies lacked street smarts against Ghana
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Cape Town – South African football has just emerged from a rebuilding phase under wily tactician Hugo Broos smelling like roses.
However, there are still parts of Mzansi where the air is thick with acrid smoke as fans are still fuming from the stinging defeat in Ghana.
Apart from the contentious penalty, South Africa's Bafana Bafana was eventually undone by the criteria of the World Cup qualifying rounds. Both Ghana and South Africa ended with 13 points at the top of Group G, and both had a goal difference of four. It was the fact that Ghana had scored seven goals, as opposed to Bafana Bafana's six, that was the deciding factor.
It became clear from his comments, both before and after the Ghana clash, that Broos was not entirely au fait with how things would work when results go down to the wire in the final qualifying match. We know from Cricket World Cups that South Africa's Proteas lost vital matches because their run rate calculations were not always on point.
Somehow, the matter of the qualifying criteria would not have been uppermost in Broos' mind otherwise he would have exhorted his players to rack up the goals against Zimbabwe instead of settling for a slender 1-0 triumph.
It is also likely to assume that Broos would not have known that Ghana last lost a home match in 2001 and since then have been on a 25-match streak (21 wins, four draws) without defeat. If he knew that that statistic, he would have mentioned it in the press conferences and would know that Bafana Bafana needed a miracle to defeat Ghana at home.
It points to a case of not being thorough in his homework and when a World Cup berth is at stake no stone must be left unturned.
So much praise has been heaped on Broos for his youthful squad which had surpassed expectations. They came within a whisker of reaching CAF's final qualifying round.
On Sunday, more than ever, Bafana Bafana's greenhorns battled the odds against street smart opponents, and it was a nightmare outing for many of them. Individually their ratings were all down except for left-back Terrence Mashego, who fought fire with fire.
Broos needed some experienced heads on the field to act a glue to hold the team together, especially when they are under the whip and need to absorb pressure. It was therefore mystifying why Broos kept his best player Keagan Dolly under wraps until the final 15 minutes of the match.
Going forward (Afcon 2004, 2006 and World Cup 2006), Broos will have to adjust his way of thinking and select some experienced hands to balance the side.
He has also won the admiration of many after selecting players from smaller clubs and he seemed averse to calling up players from South Africa's most dominant club Mamelodi Sundowns. Granted not all Sundowns players are national team material but there are at least four players who could form the nucleus of a matchwinning combination.
Finally, Broos must make it his mission to have VAR installed for matches. If this has been the case, there are at least three reasons why Bafana would have been playing the final round of CAF next March.