Bafana a shadow of first triumph against ‘Pirates’
South Africa fail to hit the target against the lowly ranked opposition
No one expected it but the reality is that Bafana Bafana were held to a goalless draw by Seychelles in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Tuesday.
Everything pointed to a Bafana win in the Indian Ocean island, but it wasn’t to be just four days after they beat “The Pirates” 6-0 at FNB Stadium.
The locals were predicting a Bafana win and even Seychelles coach Gavin Jeanne had a look of a man who had thrown in the towel even before his teams got on the field, telling the Dispatch that “you guys must take it easy on us”.
Not that anybody can blame him, because he didn’t even have enough substitutes on the bench with six instead of the normal number of seven.
During the initial stages, the home crowd even clapped when their players won the ball, that’s how much it meant for them to see their team show some willingness to fight. The noise got louder as the match progressed, with home fans realising their players were not just going to lay down and be beaten as a few days ago.
Bafana made their intent clear with two corners in the opening three minutes, but struggled to create any real opportunities in the first half.
Seychelles’ Dino Ndlovu fired wide just after half an hour, but it was the home side’s Nigel Hoarem who threatened with a cross before the break, but Itumeleng Khune, making his 90th appearance for the national team, saved well.
You could almost count the number of fans at the stadium, probably around 2,000, but the longer the match went without Seychelles conceding, the louder they sounded, bringing with it confidence to their players.
Bafana’s Lebogang Mothiba failed to silence them when his attempt crashed against the crossbar at the start of the second half from a cross by Ndlovu.
Mothiba could have redeemed himself moments later, but shot tamely at the goalkeeper, Jerome Dingwall.
Substitute Aubrey Modiba fired wide on 69 minutes and Dean Furman’s shot was saved later on. When Modiba missed with a header towards the end, the writing was on the wall.
And so it was that a nation ranked 189th in world football and with a population of under 100,000 managed a draw (seen as big as a win for them) against a country ranked 73rd.
If anything, this probably feels like a loss for SA and qualifying for the Afcon in Cameroon is no longer guaranteed with a home match against Nigeria coming up next month and Libya away early next year.
• Madagascar won a place at the tournament for the first time when they triumphed 1-0 at home against Equatorial Guinea in their Group A match on Tuesday.
Thailand-based midfielder Njiva Rakotoharimalala scored the only goal four minutes before half-time on the huge Indian Ocean island.
Victory lifted the ‘Barea’ (“Prized Cattle”) to 10 points from four games and beyond the reach of Equatorial Guinea and Sudan in a four-team mini-league from which the top two qualify.
It was the second 1-0 victory for the Malagasy over the Equatoguineans within four days after captain Faneva Ima Andriatsima scored the winner in west Africa last Saturday. — Additional reporting by AFP..