JOHANNESBURG – Is it right to patriotically delight in Bafana Bafana’s progression to the last 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations, or to be the realist and see their presence in the knockout stage as a case of cracks being papered over by hollow success?
Loyally blind fans no doubt celebrated wildly when Angola lost to Senegal, a result that ensured Bafana were the fourth best third-placed team in the group stage of the 24-team biennial continental showpiece and thus advanced.
It sounds so contrived, right?
Well, it does because it is.
When the Confederation of African Football decided to increase the number of participants at the tournament from 16, it made room for the not-so-good national teams to participate. It meant that about half the continent’s nations would be represented at an event that is supposedly a showcase of Africa’s crème de la crème.
And then, to ensure the increase made sense, they introduced the round of 16, allowing four of the six third-placed teams to go through. Third place in a group of four is a poor return, but then again...
Having failed to qualify for the previous 16-team tournament, we welcomed the increase and duly qualified second in our group behind Nigeria, although the manner of qualification was pretty uninspiring.