Williams believes future is bright for Bafana despite Afcon exit
The 27-year-old goalkeeper showed that the future is bright, and that he can be Bafana’s No 1 just as long as he cuts out what he calls “silly mistakes” that creep into his game now and then.
Bafana had a relatively successful tournament on paper. They reached the quarter-finals for the first time outside of South Africa since Mali 2002. They eliminated hosts Egypt with a strong performance. They refused to be overawed by the occasion, the star players Egypt had, and the 75 000 supporters who filled Cairo International Stadium.
But they couldn’t replicate or better that performance when they met Nigeria at the same venue on Wednesday in the last eight.
They were also woeful in the group stage, sneaking into the last 16 with a paltry three points.
Bafana have what it takes to hold their own against the best in the continent, they are just not strong enough to do it consistently.
It’s the same with Williams - he can be the country’s No 1 but doesn’t show it consistently as was shown by his brilliant performance against Ivory Coast, only to concede a soft goal in the dying minutes of the loss to Nigeria.
Williams couldn’t explain how he missed what should have been a simple clearance.
“It was a bad way to concede and to go out in that manner is bad,” he said.
“There are a lot of positives that we can take out of this tournament. There are a lot of negatives as well. We know that in the first few games we didn’t play to the best of our abilities.
“Defensively we were solid in this tournament. We just need to take the critical phases more seriously. We conceded against Morocco and also against Nigeria in the dying moments of the match.
“The coach (Stuart Baxter) always reminds us of the critical phases; that’s where we need to stay focused.
“From my side, this is a learning curve. I mustn’t let this get me down. I must stay positive and reach for the stars.”
Bafana players were dejected after losing to the Super Eagles. Their body language showed they wanted to reach the semi-finals but their performance didn’t. They retreated to the conservative nature that held them back in the group stage.
If they are to fight with the big boys, they have to be mentally stronger but also be able to put in A+ performances consistently, not once in a blue moon.
“We need to believe that we can mix it with anyone in this continent,” Bafana midfielder Dean Furman said.
“In the big games, against the big teams and under the spotlight, we can play. The more we believe that and the more we stop hyping (up) other teams, the better it will be for us.
“I do believe that we hype other teams more because of who they are, who their star players are, and where they play, and we forget what we got in our team. We forget about Percy Tau, Thembinkosi Lorch, Themba Zwane and Keagan Dolly, who wasn’t here. We forget about these kinds of players that we have. We like to talk about players of other nations.
“But let’s start looking about what we’ve got, how good we are, and how many problems we can cause them.
“Over the course of the tournament we showed that we can take this team forward and be in the top 10 on the continent. We just need to believe in ourselves.”