JOHANNESBURG – If Bafana Bafana didn’t have a penchant to self-implode, they would have swaggered into Cairo yesterday with their chests out and staring in the face anyone who is considered a favourite in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).
Bafana had a storming start to their Afcon qualifying campaign, stunning Nigeria in Stuart Baxter’s first match. But that steam died down thanks to a disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign that followed and then making a meal of an easy Afcon qualifying group which also featured Seychelles and Libya. They conspired to stutter and got the last ticket to Egypt.
So instead of swaggering into Cairo, Bafana made a low-key entrance in a tournament where their coach refuses to accept the tag of favourites. While Bafana might not be genuine favourites, they are one of the teams that could be a surprise package thanks to their solid defence.
Bafana’s defence carried them to Egypt with their strikers struggling to be consistently prolific. The familiarity at the back, thanks to the high number of Bidvest Wits players, including goalkeeper Darren Keet and captain Thulani Hlatshwayo, means communication lines are clear.
“Sometimes when you call together an international squad, you struggle to make it a team,” Baxter said. “We’ve had no problem with these players, bringing them under the same flag. Sometimes they bring with them flags from all over the world and we struggle, even though they are South African, to get them to play together, respect each other and allow each other to grow.