Hugo Broos-ball ... Bafana Bafana’s form raises 2022 Fifa World Cup hopes
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Cape Town - Bafana Bafana’s back-to-back wins in their latest 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers has sparked hopes that South Africa has a realistic chance of qualifying for football’s global showpiece in Qatar next year.
After three Group G matches the team is on a red-hot streak with wins against the higher fancied Ghana and Ethiopia (away). Their lone blemish in the current campaign was an away draw against neighbours Zimbabwe in the opening match.
New coach Hugo Broos has bravely fielded an untried combination of mainly greenhorns, and they have been given little chance of winning the group that includes Ghana. As one of the powerhouses of African football. Ghana's Black Stars have won the Africa Cup of Nations four times and were odds on favourites to win Group G.
South Africa, by comparison, have made 10 Afcon appearances and lifted the title once, in 1996. Ghana have made the finals nine times already.
All these details pale into insignificance as there is a newfound sense of belief in the ranks of Bafana Bafana that has taken the team to the top of Group G standings at the halfway mark of this round of qualifying.
The current squad have been stripped of their stalwarts like Thulani Hlatshwayo, Thulani Serero, Andile Jali, Themba Zwane, Itumeleng Khune and Kermit Erasmus, but the untried combinations have exceeded expectations.
Today, Bafana Bafana play their fourth Group G match, and Ethiopia will be the guests at the FNB Stadium (6.15pm kick-off).
On Saturday, Bafana Bafana ran out 3-1 winners in Ethiopia’s backyard on a pitch that Broos described as “very difficult”. He confessed afterwards that his players “were a little bit afraid because of bad control” because of the bumpy surface.
Before the match, Bafana Bafana captain Ronwen Williams said Ethiopia like to play tiki-taka football, a reference to a Spanish style characterised by a short inter-passing game. Ethiopia may find the FNB Stadium surface to their liking and produce an improved performance.
Ethiopia will be inspired by the fact that last Saturday’s scoreline flattered South Africa, and if it wasn’t for Williams’ heroics, the outcome could have been different. After Saturday’s defeat, Ethiopia will be under less pressure, more so because they are the visiting team.
It is unlikely Broos will send out Saturday’s starting XI today, and there could be at least two changes. Up-front Orlando Pirates striker Tshegofatso Mabasa could make way for Victor Letsoalo, the Royal AM hitman.
Broos was disappointed with Mabasa and was replaced after 35 minutes because it seemed he was not sticking to the game plan. He also appeared to have taken a knock early in the match.
In midfield, attacking midfielder Ethan Brooks had a quiet outing on Saturday and by his usual standards did not provide a spark when the team was looking to prize open gaps in the opposition defence.
Brooks made way for Yusuf Maart of Sekhukhune United.
Maart made an impact on attack and brought the marksmen into the picture with well-timed through balls. Brooks may decide to include Maart in the run-on side.
Bafana Bafana likely starting XI:
Ronwen Williams (capt), Mobbie Nyiko, Siyanda Xulu, Rushine de Reuck, Terrence Mashego, Teboho Mokoena, Mothobi Mvala, Yusuf Maart, Vincent Pule, Bongokuhle Hlongwane, Victor Letsoalo.