JOHANNESBURG - For a second qualifying group stage campaign running, Bafana Bafana will need a result in their last qualifier in order to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations. In the last edition, they needed a point against Libya in order to qualify for the finals in Egypt.
But they did that in spectacular fashion, defeating the Libyans 2-1. Thanks to a Percy Tau brace. Tau, though, was also involved when Bafana hosted Nigeria to a 1-all draw at the FNB Stadium in the penultimate round of the qualifiers. it’s that
Tau and Co find themselves at it again this term. They have to get a result away to Sudan at the Al Hilal Stadium in Khartoum State today in order to book their tickets in the finals of continental showpiece in Cameroon early next year.
However, that’s easier said than done. Sudan have proven to be a tough nut to crack thus far, beating log leaders Ghana and Sao Tome and Principe to bag nine points from their four matches in Group C – where they are currently third on the standings.
That put them, Bafana and Ghana within a chance of qualifying for Afcon. However only two teams from the group can qualify for Afcon. A draw for both Ghana and Bafana should be enough to crown them as the only qualifiers from Group C.
Bafana’s fixture, though, is a bit tricky. Despite defeating islanders Sao Tome in back-to-back matches but they’ve had a habit of stuttering against the so-called small teams. They defeated Sudan earlier in the qualifiers and drew with Ghana at home in their last qualifier on Thursday.
But they can’t take anything for granted, especially with coach Molefi Ntseki without four of the nine overseas-based players that he called up in the initial squad. Bongani Zungu, Keagan Dolly, Dean Furman and Thulani Serero haven’t been able to report for camp.
Their overseas-based clubs cited Covid-19 implications. But that might very well serve as a blessing in disguise to other players as the trio of Thabo Nodada, Vincent Pule and Mothobi Mvala were called up in order to widen the selection pool.
Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki and captain Thulani Hlatshwayo at a Press Conference in Sudan ahead of Sunday's crucial AFCON qualifier against the hosts at Khartoum International Stadium.— Bafana Bafana (@BafanaBafana) March 27, 2021
Kick off 18h00 pic.twitter.com/6tAeDuv4DQ
You see, it’s not only Bafana’s spot at the continental showpiece that might be at stake, but so could be the job of Ntseki. The former Under-17 national team coach has been considered as a cheap and secondary option by some members of the footballing fraternity.
This is after the South African Football Association, allegedly, didn’t get their preferred candidates due to their asking fee and unavailability.
But it’s not just about Safa proving that they took the right decision of appointing Ntseki as a coach, regardless of the outside noise. It’s also about the new Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Patrice Motsepe boasting that he’s from a country that is qualifying for major tournaments, especially ahead of the Fifa World Cup qualifiers.
Of course, Bafana will wear the hat of the favourites this evening, considering their run in the group and win over Sudan in the first leg. But they’ll be vigilant, knowing that this is crunch time for them to deliver the African dream, given the permutations – again!