JOHANNESBURG - The central defensive pairing of Morgan Gould and Clayton Daniels in Bafana Bafana’s impressive 3-1 win over Burkina Faso in Group D of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers was “world class”, according to football expert Farouk Khan.
But the former Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs assistant coach argued there’s at least room for captain Thulani Hlatshwayo in the back-to-back last leg of the qualifiers against leaders Senegal in Polokwane and then Dakar four days later. If Bafana beat the Lions of Teranga in both matches they will book their ticket to the World Cup in Russia.
Hlatshwayo missed the must-win clash against Burkina Faso at FNB Stadium at the weekend with a knee injury and his absence, as well as that of Mulomowandau Mathoho - who was suspended - made way for a new central pairing of SuperSport United teammates Gould and Daniels.
“They were absolutely world class and had it not been for that late free kick scored by Alain Traore, they almost kept a clean sheet,” said Khan.
“I wouldn’t change it for the Senegal game because you want a bit of consistency, but then again Thulani is the captain, and you need your captain in games of this magnitude. I also think Gould and Daniels would understand if they are dropped because they know they haven’t always been Bafana regulars.”
While there will be no complaints about the return of Hlatshwayo, question marks remain over Mathoho, who admitted he was not at his best following his sending off in Bafana’s 2-1 defeat away to Cape Verde last month.
Stuart Baxter, the national team coach, has come to his defence, saying there has been a lot of time invested in Mathoho’s international experience and he remained a central figure in his plans for the side.
Baxter had actually selected him in the 24-man squad to face Burkina Faso, but Fifa extended his suspension by a further one-game ban and was forced to be withdrawn.
“We can say Bafana had the upper-hand because they scored early (Percy Tau’s 48 seconds opener) and put pressure to get two more goals. That naturally means the back five, which includes goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, wasn’t under that much pressure,” Khan added.
“But that is not to take anything away from Gould and Daniels. You could see that they understand each other and have experience. They were excellent when put under pressure. The fact that they play for the same club and have worked with Baxter at club level showed. But it is going to be extremely difficult to leave out Hlatshwayo.”
Baxter will not only have a defensive headache, but with midfielders Andile Jali and Bongani Zungu also now suspended for the home leg of the qualifier against Senegal at the Peter Mokaba Stadium next month, he is forced to make at least two changes to the team that beat The Stallions so convincingly.
“Bafana have the beating of Senegal,” Khan said. “I watched Senegal beat Cape Verde (2-0 in Praia later on Saturday) and their defence isn’t all that watertight. The coach can make up his mind, but games aren’t all the same.
"He was probably going to make changes anyway to the team because he might want different personnel. And it is tempting to go back to players that have been there before, like Hlatshwayo.”