Bafana Bafana centreback, Buhle Mkhwanazi, defended the conservative football the team played at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) by arguing that their approach is a global phenomenon.
Bafana finished without a shot on target in two matches, in the 1-0 losses to Ivory Coast and Morocco. Even in their win over Namibia they didn’t look convincing. With goals likely to be a factor in deciding who goes through as one of the four best third-placed finishers, Bafana missed an opportunity to create a healthy goal difference by putting the Brave Warriors to the sword.
Namibia looked better than Bafana when they went forward. The decision to play Percy Tau wide hamstrung the team, forcing the talented forward to do a lot of defending instead of terrorising opposition defenders. Lebo Mothiba hardly got a decent cross. Bafana’s attack lacked inspiration and tenacity. They didn’t take matches by the scruff of the neck.
“To be honest, according me football nowadays is all about being compact and catching teams on the break,” Mkhwanazi said. “If you check the teams that we played against, they are playing that brand of football. I think that’s the current trend of football, teams are starting to adapt to that style of play. It suits whoever is wearing the badge and the formation. I don’t see any negative football and positive football. It is all about how you play, how you use the formation and the strategy you apply and who you are playing against.”
Bafana defended too deep as they looked to hit their opponents on the counter-attack, the speciality of coach Stuart Baxter. But when they broke, they didn’t do so with speed, energy and determination. In a way, Morocco did what Bafana would like to do in the 1-0 win over the Elephants.
The Atlas Lions defended well with a structured defence which is the backbone of their team. But they also attacked with devastating speed, pushing their fullbacks high up the field while the pace of their attackers proved to be a handful for the slow Ivorian defence.
When asked to make an assessment of their team’s performance, Mkhwanazi responded with a terse statement.
“I can’t say anything. We lost. We needed a win against Morocco, and we didn’t get it.”
“There are many ways of trying to get three points,” Baxter said. “If we had attacked Morocco, and played very high with our backline they would have enjoyed the game a whole lot more. A lot of the players played well in terms of their distances, angles of pressing and defending processes. We could have played better in the last third. There are many ways to win a game of football. This is not the time for me to start questioning the players, this is the time for me to accept the results. But there are many ways to win a football match. I don’t want to say anything that I will regret in my disappointment.”