JOHANNESBURG – Maybe Bafana Bafana are a group of modest men.
Burkina Faso striker Bertrand Traore said earlier in the week they were unpredictable and were difficult to plan against because the opposition just aren’t sure which South African team are going to show up on match day.
The team that turned out for this must-win 2018 World Cup qualifier here was a rampant savage, taking no prisoners and settling the nerves early with a goal from Percy Tau 48 seconds after the whistle for kick-off had sounded, before clinching a 3-1 win.
It’s been Bafana’s trump card for some years now to deliver when nobody gives them a chance. Stuart Baxter’s men had been written off coming into this encounter – and rightfully so.
They were abysmal in Praia against Cape Verde last month, being humbled 2-1 by the islanders on the road before another sucker punch, by the same score line, in Durban a couple of days later to leave them bottom of Group D and with their chances of qualifying for the World Cup next year hanging by the thinnest of threads.
Supporters had threatened to boycott this encounter against group leaders Burkina Faso, and most of them did, while others – through the slashing of ticket prices and free distributions – braved the rainy weather to come “show their love” for their embattled national team.
It was worth their while.
Percy Tau had the ball in the back of the net within the first minute, although there was some hesitation from referee Sidi Alioum and his assistant as it was tricky to see whether the ball had actually crossed the line.
It was eventually given moments later, Bafana taking an unexpected lead that went on to set the tone for the rest of the encounter. They romped to a 3-0 victory, two more goals coming before half-time through Themba Zwane and Sibusiso Vilakazi.
And they were both sublime.
Khune, Bafana’s returning goalkeeper, who had missed the two defeats against Cape Verde last month, not only bolstered the last line of defence, but was equally impressive in his distribution of the ball, which led to Andile Jali setting up Zwane for the second goal and Tau turning provider for Vilakazi to get their third just before the break.
Baxter didn’t seem to instruct them to pull the foot of the pedal in the second, Bafana still as gung-ho as they were in the first 45 minutes and still quite solid at the back, until they were breached later when Alain Traore curled a free kick past Khune to pull one back.
At that time, Bafana had retreated following a red card to midfielder Bongani Zungu around the hour mark.
Rushing to protect a teammate after a bad challenge from behind, the French-based player got involved in a massive brawl and appeared to retaliate when Alain Traore had elbowed him in the face.
He was deservedly given his marching orders and will, in all likelihood, miss Bafana’s remaining two matches against Senegal in the final stretch of this World Cup qualification.
Zungu shouldn’t have been the only one given his marching orders, however.
Bafana held on and clinched all three points when the expectations were extremely low and a shrink had to be brought in to work on their mentality before this game.
Their World Cup hopes aren’t shattered just yet, but they remain bottom of the log with two games remaining and their fate not so much in their own hands.
Modest men, or unpredictable?
They showed great character against the log leaders nonetheless.