JOHANNESBURG – The pause was long, so long that the silence was louder than the words that eventually came out of Darren Keet’s mouth in response to how far he thinks Bafana Bafana will go in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).
The tournament hasn’t exactly been kind to Bafana and the Bidvest Wits goalkeeper. Bafana have missed three of the last five Afcons - and during those editions they celebrated qualification that wasn’t, while they failed to win a match in the 2006 and 2008 editions. The lowest moment was returning from the 2006 Afcon in Egypt without even finding the back of the net.
The quarter-final exit in the 2013 edition, on home soil, papered over the cracks and disappointment that have filled Bafana’s campaign in the continental showpiece. Keet was there the last time Bafana played at the Afcon.
The 29-year-old had a shocking performance in the opening match of the 2015 Afcon against Algeria in Equatorial Guinea. Keet was beaten three times and all those goals, in a 3-1 loss, were soft and showed a goalkeeper not yet confident at being the No 1 of his country.
As is the fate whenever goalkeepers have a bad game, the blame for the loss was put squarely on Keet while Tokelo Rantie - who missed a game-changing penalty lived to tell the story. Keet was banished from the national team and only returned to the starting line-up when Itumeleng Khune was injured. With that rocky relationship with the Nations Cup, it’s understandable why he played down the expectations.
“I don’t want to go into how far we can go,” Keet eventually said. “It always comes down to every match as you play it. We’ve got to be prepared for every game, the result will take care of itself but where we need to start is by having a good foundation of how we want to play, work our way from there and make sure that we continue to give our best in every game. When we give our best and we get it right, then we are definitely good enough. That has shown with the South African teams in the CAF Champions League that we are capable of achieving a lot.
Our national team at the moment is no different. We’ve got good players, a good squad, mentality and we are looking at pushing as far and as hard as we can. All the goals and the games that we have in front of us, we will attack them.”
Bafana Bafana upon arrival in Cairo, Egypt on Tuesday morning for the AFCON 2019 tournament pic.twitter.com/4eYJIoh32B— Bafana Bafana (@BafanaBafana) June 18, 2019
What’s in front of Bafana is a friendly against Angola tomorrow in Cairo. Bafana arrived in Egypt’s capital yesterday after holding a mini-camp in Dubai which culminated in a training match against Ghana on Saturday that ended goalless.
Keet was part of the first team Stuart Baxter fielded against the Black Stars. That side had a strong hint that it could be the starting XI that will play against Ivory Coast in Bafana’s first Afcon match on Monday.
“We don’t want too much expectations of what we can and can’t do,” Keet said. “It’s just about going out there, giving our best and making sure that we put our plans into practice.
If we can get that right - we will do well. But, expectations, I don’t have any expectations.”